Building Good Habits Podcast | New Year’s Resolutions

Podcast Excerpt: Habit is also the foundation of personality. Biologists tell us that it is the constant (and not the occasional) in the environment that impresses itself on an organism. So it is that the habitual in our lives builds itself into our character and personality. In a very real sense, we ARE what we are in the habit of doing and thinking.

Our thinking is as characteristic as our physical acts. We may form the habit of thinking things out logically, or of jumping to conclusions; of thinking critically and independently, or of taking things unquestioningly on the authority of others. We may form the habit of carefully reading great books, or of skimming sentimental and trashy ones; of choosing elevating, ennobling companions, or palling around with the opposite; of being a good conversationalist and doing our part in a social group, or of being a drag on the conversation, and needing to be “entertained.” We may form the habit of observing the things about us and enjoying the beautiful in our environment, or of failing to observe and to enjoy.

Even in good habits there is danger. For habit is the opposite of attention. Habit relieves attention of unnecessary strain. Every habitual act was at one time a voluntary act; that is, it was performed under active attention. As the habit grew, attention was gradually rendered unnecessary, until finally it dropped out entirely. And therein lies the danger.

Habit once formed has no way of being modified unless in some way attention is called to it, for a habit left to itself becomes more and more firmly fixed. The rut grows deeper. In very few, if any, of our actions can we afford to have this be the case. Our habits need to be progressive, they need to grow, to be modified, to be improved. Otherwise they will become an encrusting shell, fixed and unyielding, which will limit our growth.

It is necessary, then, to keep our habitual acts under some surveillance of attention, to pass them in review for inspection every now and then, that we may discover possible modifications which will make them more serviceable. We need to be inventive, constantly looking for better ways of doing things.

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