Why Are Habits So Important?

Dr. Purushothaman
January 10, 2014


In a nutshell, a person is nothing more than a culmination of habits. (Habits encompass habits of belief, action, reaction, feeling, etc.) These habits come from culture, subculture, others, experience, and introspection. Many of your habits begin in your childhood, but others are about how you feel about yourself and life and your childhood now.
But in order to understand this in more depth, first, we must understand theoretically what habits are and how they work. Then, we will examine how they work in creating and continuing limitations.
Why Are Habits so Important?
It's a hard pill to swallow, but we are our habits. And the habits that we live out are the reasons that we act the ways that we do. But if we can “get behind” our habits and unpack them, we can change them.
So, what do I mean when I say that we are our habits?
For the sake of example, let's imagine a guy I knew: Steve, a 32-year-old crystal meth addict who loves to shoot up speed and “boost” (i.e. shoplift). From what you know about him, he has two habits: injecting drugs and stealing. He has more of course, but they're superfluous for this discussion.
In a very basic sense, it's extremely easy to see my point with this example: his habit of stealing makes him a thief. (In fact, if you knew him, he'd introduce himself as Booster Steve and if you talk long enough, he’ll show you the spoils of his excursions.) His habit of thieving is what 1) makes him a thief and 2) allows him to be identified as one.
In the same way, his habit of injecting drugs makes him a tweaker. He wouldn't be a tweaker if he didn't have the habit of tweaking. And it's his insistence on living those habits that keeps him locked in a cycle (and now in jail).
So, this is what I mean: we are our habits because insofar as we live them out they are our behaviors. And how we behave is a direct reflection of who we are and what we believe about the world and ourselves.
Likewise, if a person is a Christian, it's their adherence to their habits (the Christian belief structures/tenets/actions that they adhere to) that makes them Christian. Same for a vegan, environmentalist, punk kids, Freeman, terrorists, bankers...
Taking a note from the punk kids, if you pretend to be something punk, e.g. a gutter punk, but you’re actually not (you don't follow the habitual guidelines of gutter-punk-dom), then you’re a poser. As the name implies, then, a poser is a person who pretends to be something they’re not. Which of course implies that if it's possible to not be a gutter punk, then there is something that one can not be (i.e. there is such a thing as a semblance of ways to be that make you a gutter punk, “gutter punk-ness”).
Anyway, I hope that makes sense now that you are your habits, and that your habits (habits of action, thought, reaction, feeling, etc.) influence your actions. In the most obvious sense, if you can say that you have a personality, you have a stable set of ways of being and beliefs about reality. And, you live as the person that has those habits and believes those things in the world.
But the key thing to get out of this discussion is that it doesn't have to be that way. If you want to change, you need to begin where we all begin, with changing our habits...

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