The Creative Power of Habit | Motivational Podcasts

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Today’s reading was edited and adapted from The Wonders of Life by Ida Lyon, published in 1910.

We idly remark that we are creatures of Habit, and so dismiss the matter from our minds. The vastness of this great truth simply does not impress us. But there is infinitely more to this matter of Habit than we have suspected. It is a great law, one of the primary laws of life.

The question of forming habits is the one question which is of the most vital importance to us, since we are, of necessity, constantly forming habits which are a power for good or evil.

A habit is a dominating power which, when in full control, is master of the situation, and so subtly does it gain control of us that we do not realize what a tremendous power it is, until we try to loose ourselves from its grasp. Even then, we do not stop to think what this power is, or the extent to which we are controlled by it. If anyone cares to take an inventory of their habits, they will be amazed at their number and variety.

We have been taught that no act performed ends with itself, but leaves in the nerve-centers the tendency to do the same thing again. But the immense significance of this truth has not been made apparent to us. We do not stop to consider that it is to Habit (this tendency of the nerve-centers to do the same thing again) that we owe the ability to walk, to talk, to perform all the simple and common acts of life, as well as whatever accomplishments we possess; and that, without Habit, we would literally know nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.

It will therefore pay us to give close attention to this matter of Habit. A power that takes up everything which we begin, and continues it “without rhyme or reason,” and grows and grows in power as we encourage it, until it completely dominates us, is a power certainly worth studying.

It is to Habit that we owe the truth of the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” No slight degree of skill can be attained in any other way. The spinal nerve-centers soon learn to cause definite movements of the muscles, in response to certain afferent stimuli. Thus the musician who, at first, had to think of their music and the movements of their fingers, learns to play the most difficult selections without consciousness of effort.

But this matter of acquiring skill through Habit does not apply, merely, to music or other accomplishments. It applies to every act which we perform, and this tendency of the nerve-centers to “do the same thing again,” is a fact which affects us vitally. We know how easily Habits are formed; but we overlook the fact that most of the acts which we perform, and all in which we are at all skillful, are habitual.

When acts become Habits, we need to see to it that they are not of a kind to work us injury. One may form a Habit of over-eating or shopping beyond one’s means. We call it a compulsive disorder, but it is only another name for Habit. Habit is an unreasoning power and looks to the brain centers for direction, but these centers are often irresponsible, weak, and incapable of providing control, thus become controlled by the Habit. It is not so much circumstances or temperament that makes us ill-natured or good-natured, as it is Habit.

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