Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First we make our habits, and then ...

In sickness, my thoughts turn to health, mortality, and the desirability of certain changes in my lifestyle. I have noticed, and sickness thrusts the issue in one’s face, that as I get older I am more set in my ways, even if those ways are bad for me. Even though I am convinced of a change I have to make, I find it harder to make the first step.
I must remember William James’ phrase:

Sow a thought, reap an action,
Sow an action, reap a habit,
Sow a habit, reap a destiny.

I know that the key to change is in creating new habits to replace the lifestyle habits we wish to change. I find inspiration in these quotes:

We first make our habits, and then our habits make us. John Dryden

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle

Choose the life that is most useful, and habit will make it the most agreeable. Francis Bacon

We are what we think, as the Buddha and many others agree. So we must make sure that we think well. We must think high, positive, great thoughts. We must banish low thoughts, doubt, fear and discouragement. This is where philosophy can help us. But we must not spend our time only thinking great thoughts, we must put our thoughts into action. We must build good habits of action. And then the power of habit will work for us and not against us.

Weak is he who allows his thoughts to control his actions.
Strong is he who makes his actions control his thoughts. Confucius

Then our habits will make us what we thought of in the first place. Let us take the first step ...

1 comment:

The Rambling Taoist said...

I think I understand the life of habit better than most because I have Asperger's Syndrome (a high functioning form of autism). Repetition -- the essence of habit -- defines my life!

That said, like most of us, some of these repetitive actions aren't necessarily good ones. So, what I need to learn is to create beneficial repetitions rather than negative ones.

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond