Self-Transformation Series:
Issue No. 26

How to Form and Change Habits

Table of Contents

  1. Why Important
  2. How to Form and Change Habits
  3. How to Change Habits
  4. The Danger of Habits
  5. Helping Children Form Useful Habits

I. Why Important

Habits are the foundation-stones of our behavior and character. They control our lives as we grow to become adults. If we develop major bad habits, they will trouble and upset us for the rest of our lives. If we develop major good habits, they will be our angels and benefactors for as long as we live. It is therefore very important that we determine what habits we wish to develop in us, and know how to form or change them. This is an important part of Self-Mastery.

The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. - Samuel Johnson

Habit is a cable. We weave a thread of it every day, and at last we cannot break it. - Horace Mann

The second half of a manís life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half. - Feodor Dostoevski

II. How to Form and Change Habits

Example: You may have the habit of complaining about the traffic or the weather, and thereby make yourself miserable. You may decide that being positive is a better habit.
Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Each lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up; a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again. - William James

III. How to Change Habits

Habits can be changed, even those which are deeply ingrained. Here are some approaches.

Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all - Gurdjieff (quoted by P.D. Ouspensky)
Example: a smoker chews something whenever he feels the desire to smoke.
Example: avoiding company of drinkers to stop alcohol intake.

IV. The Danger of Habits

While we regulate our habits, we must also be aware of a potential disadvantage of habits in general. When we are too fixed and rooted in our habits, even constructive habits, we may lose spontaneity, creativity, and may find ourselves unable to adjust to changing circumstances. While good habits are extremely useful slaves, we must take care that they will not imprison us exclusively in their worlds. Hence the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno wrote "To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be."

V. Helping Children Form Useful Habits

Habits are invariably formed in childhood and youth. Hence it is essential that parents and elders know hot to handle the habit-forming stages of growing up.

Every attempt to give honest praise is a solid-gold investment. - Linda and Richard Eyre

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Copyright 1995. Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
Peace Center
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"If five percent of the people work for peace, there will be peace."