The chains of habit

Dr. Purushothaman
January 12, 2014


I once read the story in an article by Denis Waitley about the history of the Brooklyn Bridge that was build many years ago close to the Niagara Falls, the biggest and most powerful waterfall in America. The developers of the bridge couldn't cross the river by boat because it is too close to the falls. The Aeroplane hadn't been invented at that time, and the traditional method of shooting with a bow-and-arrow couldn't work because it was too far.
The designer engineer, Charles Ellet decided to organize a kite-flying contest. The winner of the contest would be the person who was able to fly his kite over the gorge and let it go low enough for someone on the other side to grab the string. The kite string was used to pull a cord across, then a line, then a rope. Next came an iron-wire cable and then steel cables until a structure strong enough to build a suspension bridge was in place. With the suspension bridge in place construction could begin on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Today I would like to compare that thin kite string to the formation of a habit. In confirmation of this comparison, Orisson Swett Marden once said The beginning of a habit is like an invisible thread, but every time we repeat the act we strengthen the strand until it becomes a great cable and binds irrevocably, thought and act
The more an act is repeated, the stronger it becomes like the string to the rope to a cable. Each time you repeat it, or layer it with a similar act, you are strengthening the structure on which to build your life.
Because habits are such an important part of our lives I want to say a few things about it:
1. Your life consists of habits.
All people are creatures of habit, and like that thin kite string we have all done many things in our lives for the first time, and as we repeat them this thin line becomes stronger and stronger. Horace Mann said: Habits are like a cable. We weave a strand of it every day and soon it cannot be broken. Whatever you do repeatedly eventually becomes a new habit.
The first part of our lives we acquire a lot of different habits. In fact 95% of everything we do, we do habitually, without even thinking about it. We spend the second half of our lives acting out the habits we acquired in the first half.
2. There are two types of habits.
Not all habits are created equal. You get empowering habits and disempowering habits. Empowering habits puts you in the position to become better, to be more than you ever thought possible, to acquire and achieve more. Good, empowering habits are hard to form but easy to live with. They make your life so much easier.
Bad, disempowering habits are easy to form, but hard to live with. These negative habits will make it impossible for you to be what you could have been, it doesn't matter how much talent or potential you have, they will pull you down and weaken you. Unfortunately the bad thing about negative, disempowering habits is that they are like a nice warm bed in the winter, easy to get into, but difficult to get out.
Habit is either the best of servants, or the worst of masters Nathaniel Emmons
3. Your habits determine your destiny.
Unfortunately most of us have many limiting / disempowering habits that we have acquired through the years, and those habits influence our whole life, and our destiny. Thats why John Dryden said: We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.
Steven Covey says in his well known book, Seven habits of highly effective people that the difference between people who live their lives effectively and successfully, and those who live mediocre, insignificant lives is that the successful people have acquired some good, empowering habits in their lives.
We live the lives we are living at this moment, whether successful or unsuccessful, ordinary or extraordinary, because of our habits. You cannot have a life with ordinary habits, and expect to live an extraordinary life. The only difference between high performers and low performers is their habits.
4. All habits are learned behaviour.

Luckily, for us we can change them, for if our habits are learned behaviour, then we can unlearn them and replace them with better ones. Most successful people have achieved their goals only after arduous struggling for a long time to replace bad habits with good, empowering ones.
It is impossible to live an extraordinary life if you have ordinary habits, to be extraordinary you have to be willing to habitually do the things that other people are not willing to do. You have to break your old destructive habits and replace them with new empowering ones.

5. Old habits can be changed
Unfortunately it is easier said than done, because we humans don't like change. We prefer everything to stay the same as we are used to; even if we know that it is not in our best interest. As John Maxwell said: The only person who likes change, is a wet baby. That is because change is painful; it takes a lot of hard work.
Yes, changing our old negative habits is painful, but I have learned one thing from Joel Osteen and that is that the pain of change is much less than the pain of staying in mediocrity, and therefore we've got to change our habits.
Be patient with yourself, it has taken an entire lifetime to become the person you are. It is not possible to change your old habits overnight. Brian Tracy teaches that old habits do not die, when you stop practicing them, they become weak and withdraw into your subconscious mind. They lurke behind the surface, waiting to re-emerge at a later time, when the stimulus that originally created them is repeated. You must forever guard against falling back into your old habits.
In closing I would like to say that good habits are like railroad tracks; they are laid down with a lot of effort so that later you can get where you want to be with ease. You too can build a bridge to a life of excellence and success, or too a life of mediocrity and insignificance, through the habitual choices that you make every day. The choice is yours.

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