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When I was a boy, one of the chores I shared with my sisters was vacuuming the living room. It was a job none of us wanted, and frequently we showed our displeasure by simply shoving the machine back into the hall closet when we were done.

My mother did not approve of this; there was, she insisted, a particular way to coil and hang the hose and to set the canister and the attachments in place. I felt the force of her displeasure several times before I discovered that it really was easier to do the job right the first time.

On occasion, however, just as I started to correctly disconnect and coil the hose, my mother would call from the other room, "Be sure to put that vacuum cleaner away properly." That brief reminder was usually enough to motivate me to heave the whole thing into the closet and shut the door quickly.

What makes us so stubborn? I wish I could say that it was just a phase I eventually outgrew, but I'm afraid that isn't true. It still happens: when I've made up my mind to do ...

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