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Origin of habits


   What is the origin of habits?  What is their source?  How do 
   they get started?  I have a habit.  When I park my motor 
   vehicle, I always back into a parking space and then drive out. 
   This is the opposite of what most people do. Most drive in and 
   then back out.  What is the source of this habit of mine?  I 
   know from memory what the source of the habit is.  It came from 
   a few seconds of reflective thought that occurred back in my 
   youth.  I remember asking myself which way was the best way to 
   park and then the answer I gave myself.  I said that backing in 
   and driving out was much safer and the best way.  Both ways 
   involved the more difficult part, backing up, but backing in 
   was, I said, much safer than backing out.  You are far less 
   likely to hit a pedestrian or have a collision with another 
   vehicle if you are backing in than you are if you are backing 
   out.  There is a visibility problem when backing out and 
   possible emerging surprises pose a danger.  I have another 
   habit.  I never watch sports.  I don't watch football, 
   baseball.  I don't watch any sports.  Sports don't interest me.  
   Where did that habit come from?  I did watch football and 
   boxing when I was a boy.  The source of my habit of not 
   watching any sports is a few seconds of thought that occurred 
   to me shortly after I graduated from college.  I remember 
   thinking, "Watching sports is really a very silly and useless 
   habit, isn't it?  Surely one can think of a more constructive 
   and useful way to use one's time than watching some people 
   knock a ball around! Occupying one's mind with something so 
   silly as that is pretty ridiculous, isn't it?  What am I doing, 
   wasting my time in that way! That is a habit I am going to 
   ditch! No more watching sports!"  I consider the origin of my 
   other many habits.  In essentially every case that I can think 
   of the origin goes back to a few seconds of reflective thought.  
   The habit began with a question I asked myself and then the 
   answer I gave. I am a person of method and system.  I think 
   about the best way of doing a thing, the safest way or the most 
   efficient way, and then start doing it that way.  And it 
   becomes a habit and that is the way I do this thing the rest of 
   my life.  Whether it is the habit of never calling people names 
   (which I never do) or the habit of controlling my anger or 
   whatever the habit the origin goes back to a few seconds of 
   reflective thought (often back to some reflective thoughts of 
   my boyhood days).  I am frugal.  It is a habit that has just 
   become stronger as I have gotten older.  What is the source of 
   that habit?  It is reflective thought.  

   There are other sources of habit other than reflective thought.  
   I think about the habits of lying, cheating, stealing, sexual 
   promiscuity, selfishness, overeating, squandering money, etc.  
   What are the origins of those habits?  Could you say that the 
   source of those habits is fleshly impulse?  People act on 
   fleshly inclinations, temptations, weaknesses, and desires.  
   And then repeated action, as Aristotle has said, leads to 
   habit.  Isn't the source of most bad habits fleshly impulse?  

   Have we come up with some kind of principle?  Could we say that 
   the source of most good habits is either reflective thought or 
   religious teaching and the source of most bad habits is fleshly 
   impulse?  

   We think.  What we think we become.  As we think, we form 
   habits.  As we think we form outlooks, attitudes and beliefs.  
   And these habits, outlooks, attitudes and beliefs shape and 
   define us. 


   May 2007


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