Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. I have no idea who said it, but I like and totally agree with the thought: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Habits are powerful factors in our lives. There are hundreds of habits we follow daily that we are hardly aware of — how we bathe in the shower, brush our teeth, which shoe we tie first, what we eat for breakfast, how we greet another person, which fingernail we clip first, whether or not we use a turn signal, our response to a heated situation ... Because habits are consistent, almost unconscious patterns of behavior, they express our character and often determine our effectiveness ... or ineffectiveness.
As Horace Mann, the great educator, once said, “Habits are like a cable. We weave a strand of it every day and soon it cannot be broken.”
I personally do not agree with the last part of his expression. I know they can be broken. Because habits are learned, they can be unlearned. But I also know it isn’t easy. It involves a high level of commitment.
Breaking a habit is comparable to what the space shuttle must do to break out of the tremendous gravitational pull of the earth. More energy is spent in the first few minutes of lift off, in the first few miles of travel, than is used over the next several days circling the earth, traveling a half a million miles or more.
Habits, too, have tremendous pull — more than most of us realize or would want to admit. Breaking deeply imbedded habitual tendencies such as procrastination, impatience, criticalness, addictiveness or selfishness involves more than a little will power and a few minor changes in our lives.
Like overcoming the gravitational pull of earth, breaking well-learned habits takes a tremendous effort. The good news is that once we break out of the pull of the habit, we are free to move on in life as strains of an emotional — and sometimes physical — cable are broken and unwanted baggage is released thus freeing us to travel without the overwhelming pull of the old habit.
Like launching a space shuttle, breaking through the pull of deeply embedded habits demands self-control, focus, and discipline. It does not happen to people who are easily frightened by such a challenge, who resist change, who do not have the strength of character to take on the overwhelming pull of the ways things are. It’s not just about understanding where we want to go, but having the depth of resolve to act on our understanding. Only those with a depth of character, a character that finally and decisively helps us break the pull of destructive habits, can move onto building and maintaining constructive habits
The importance of our daily habits simply cannot be underestimated. Remember, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Habits, good or bad, determine both who we are and who we might become.