The Law of Habit

An acquired habit, from the physiological point of view, is nothing but a new pathway of discharge formed in the brain, by which certain incoming currents ever often tend to escape.

The great thing is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.–Guard against ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague.

The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision and for whom (every act) the time of rising and going to bed, the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects for express volitional deliberation.

Maxim I. In the acquisition of a new thought or the leaving off of an old one we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided initiative as possible.

Maxim II. Never suffer an exception to occur until the new habit is securely rooted in your life.

Each lapse is like letting fall a ball of string which one is carefully winding up; a single slip means more than a great many turns will wind again.

Continuity of training is the great means of making the nervous system act infallibly right. It is necessary above all things never to lose a battle. Every gain on the wrong side undoes the effect of many conquests on the right.

The essential precaution is to so regulate the opposing powers that the one may have a series of uninterrupted success, until repetition has fortified it to such a degree as to enable it to cope with the opposition under any circumstances.

The need of securing success at the outset is imperative. To be habitually successful is the thing.

Be careful not to give the will such a task as to insure its defeat at the outset, but provided one can stand it, a sharp period of suffering, and then a free time is the best to aim at, whether in giving up the opium habit or in simply changing one’s hours of rising or of work.

It is surprising how soon a desire will die of inanition if it be never fed.

Without unbroken advance there is no such thing as accumulation of the ethical forces possible, and to make this possible and to exercise and habituate us in it is the sovereign blessing of regular work.

Maxim III. Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of habits you aspire to gain.

It is not the moment of their forming but in the moment of their producing motor effects, that resolves and aspirations communicate the new ‘set’ to the brain.

The actual presence of the practical opportunity alone furnishes the fulcrum upon which the lever can rest, by means of which the moral will may multiply its strength and raise itself aloft. He who had no solid ground to press against will never get beyond the stage of empty gesture making.

When a resolve or a fine glow of feeling is allowed to evaporate without bearing practical fruit, it is a waste and a chance lost; it works so as positively to hinder future resolutions and emotions from taking the normal path of discharge.

If we let our emotions evaporate, they get in a way of evaporating.