the roots of habit

Our life and character are shaped by our habits. What we repeatedly think about and do each day ultimately forms our behaviors, beliefs and personality.

Essentially, we are nothing but the sum of our habits. Our habits dictate whether we are fit or overweight, happy or sad, and successful or struggling.

I heard a great story sometime back that beautifully emphasizes on why changing habits in a timely manner is crucial for us. Here’s how it goes:

A wealthy man once asked an old and wise sage to help his son change the bad habits that he had acquired. The sage asked his son to take a walk along with him through the garden. After walking few steps, the sage asked the young man to pluck a flower out of the ground. The man grabbed the flower with his fingers and easily plucked it out. The sage nodded and they resumed walking.

A few moments later, they stopped again and the sage pointed to another plant, bit larger than the last one, and asked to do the same thing. With a bit of effort, the young man grabbed it with his hand and plucked it out of the soil. The sage then asked him to pluck a bush near them. The young man grabbed the bush with both of his hands and used all his strength barely managing to uproot it and pulling it out of the ground.

The sage then pointed to an oak tree and asked him to uproot it out of the ground. Knowing it was an impossible task, the young man told the sage that he can’t do it. The sage smiled and said, “You see, my boy, this is what happens with our habits as well. If we let them establish and grow their roots, it becomes harder and harder for us to get rid of them.”

Whenever we realize in our lives that we are letting a bad habit take root and grow, we need to take charge and nip it in the bud. An innocuous seeming negative habit when repeated on a daily basis becomes stronger and stronger every day and has the potential to wreak havoc in our lives if we don’t pay close attention to it. As the popular old French proverb goes: A stitch in time saves nine.