Home > Blog > Caution: Habits can be Habit-Forming

John Dryden once said, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” 

Isn’t that true? Whether you’re a college student here in Williamson County, or a hedge fund manager in NYC, habits are fundamental to success. And now that our New Year’s Resolutions have faded, it’s a good time to rethink your habits and patterns, and make some adjustments.

build good habits phrase made from metallic letterpress type on grunge cardboard background

We’ve all heard the Biblical saying, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” In other words, you harvest what you plant. Each and every day, we are consciously (and unconsciously) planting seeds of a sort. And those seeds germinate. Most people do not live intentionally, with a purpose. Consequently they’re operating in a less-than-conscious manner.

So, here’s something to consider: Unless we are consciously forming good habits, we are unconsciously forming bad ones. 

What habits are you forming?

Have you noticed how easy it is to be lazy? It’s easy to sit on the couch and watch reruns of The Office. It’s easy to play World of Warcraft until you look up and notice four hours have elapsed and you missed class and lunch and your study time (and a shower). Forming bad habits takes little conscious effort or intent.

Here’s another pithy adage. There are three types of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask, “What happened?” Lots of people end up in the final category. Many Americans pass their waking hours with simple amusement. Mostly with their best friend, the TV. (Or, with youTube or Facebook.) It’s all just amusement. The root meaning of “amuse” comes from the French “amuser” which meant to divert attention from serious business. Most people are like water: they seek the path of least resistance. Eng’s principle states: The easier it is to do, the harder it is to change.

So bad habits are easy.  

Forming good habits takes a bit of discipline. It takes effort. It takes energy, It takes focus. NOTE: I’m not suggesting we all become workaholics, using every minute with relentless purpose. There is a time and a season for everything. Leisure time is OK. Facebooking is OK. Occasional downtime is healthy!

So what habits are you forming today?

What’s a small, new habit you can try on—and repeat?  It may be eating smaller portions.  Or using less salt.  It may be smiling more, or deciding to express your feelings more. It could be starting an exercise habit—perhaps you just walk around the block. If you’re in sales, it might be making cold calls again. Keep it simple, believable, and doable. Pick a couple pain points and take small steps.

Forming a new habit involves taking small daily actions — accomplished at the right time. You can’t skip spring planting if you want a fall harvest.

Recreating your life doesn’t take a lot of work – just repeat a single, positive act daily for three weeks and it will become a habit. Then add another one. The force of good habits will automatically generate your power and good fortune.

So avoid letting life happen to you.  Don’t get older and ask, “What happened?” We all know the pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret. Decide to try on a new small habit today and follow through with it for a few weeks.  Remember:

“Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters.”  –Nathaniel Emmons 


Lee McCroskey, M.A., is an adjunct professor at Williamson College, a liberal arts Christian college located in Williamson County, Franklin, Tennessee. He teaches sales, management and leadership courses there.