Session 7 - Applying the Power of Habit

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There is another, special law in nature by which we can come closer to each other and resist our egos. It is called "habit becomes a second nature." We can see how this law acts on us. If I repeat a certain action several times because I want to achieve good results, or avoid bad ones, I become accustomed to that action, and begin to want it. It becomes as natural to me as my own desire to enjoy, to the point that I can't enjoy by any other way any longer. The act becomes "absorbed" within us, and it turns into a habit. However, this depends on the extent to which the environment is compelling this action, to the extent that everyone is doing it, and to the degree to which the act is supported by anything and everything we see around us in life.


Therefore, as soon as we set up integral education, while also organizing a supportive environment along with it that encompasses each of us, it becomes possible to advance toward a state where a person is impressed by how people are thoughtful of others. Through the media, through all kinds of explanations, through the view of each person on the street, we can purposely act out goodness and kindness before each other, and in a sense, "pretend" to be good and thoughtful of others, as though we are all members of a single family, and that I supposedly care for others as much as I care for myself. We have to keep this act going all the time, as though we are playing a game, and try to continue carrying ourselves through our lives as though we are already corrected. What will this do for us?


Gradually, through acting in good ways, as if playing in a game at all times, and through the  influence of an environment that acts this way too, I begin to think in this direction and develop new habits. I become impressed by all of this and I begin to acquire a new internal habit, which causes me to not be able to act otherwise any longer. Thus, although I absorbed this new habit from the outside rather than by my nature, and in a way, by forcing myself into it, it becomes within me just like the nature with which I was born.


This is why it is imperative to utilize the law, "habit becomes a second nature." Successful implementation of this law is dependent upon the extent to which one puts oneself under one's own pressure to "act as if", and the social pressures from a supportive environment, so as to not forget the game of acting as though we are already in a good state. This law utilized in this way will advance us forward to the next good state.


You could say that by this game we are, in a way, acting much like children do when they play. They, too, imagine that they are doing something important, that they are building something special. Yet, unlike the natural play of children, we know it's a game that we are playing in order to acquire good habits, and that it's not for real. The way children play and imagine is that they make mistakes, and then build again, then they break it down and build again. But precisely through those games, in every form and fashion that comes their way, they grow and progress in their intelligence and understanding. Without games, a child would grow up as a savage, like a little animal that grows into a bigger animal, and mostly only grows in their physicality. This is why there are psychologists and other professionals in special institutes building special systems for various kinds of games—blocks, clay or play-dough, cars, dolls, the use of special equipment or computers, and so on. Using things through playing games with them is really the only way we advance.


It is evident that even our physical development would be impossible without games, which we can categorize as "sports." Sports are games where we accustom ourselves, through various exercises, to do things that an ordinary person wouldn't be able to do without practice, meaning without games, through continual repetition of the same act. We can clearly see that we reach great achievements through using the principle of habit.


We can also understand that people who live together impress one another, feel each other, and understand one another, even without words. It's like an internal discourse. This is all the result of habit. By living under the same roof and feeling one another, they become "included," mingled in one another. In the past, entire nations and civilizations were built this way, from the integration of different people who were strangers until they acquired the similar characteristics of a nation of people.


In other words, the law of "habit becomes a second nature," is made especially for us. It is so that even forms that are undesirable and unnatural for us, we can transform ourselves into shapes that we choose, even though they are against our nature, and we can assume them and turn them into a new form. In this way, we can build ourselves toward the good.


We are born with only an egoistic desire to enjoy, and to not caring for anything but myself. When a baby is born from its mother, it feels only itself, and thinks only of itself. A baby doesn't even feel the world around it until a few weeks after birth, when it begins to open its eyes and see, and begins to hear, as though suddenly "switching on" its senses. But what the baby wants from life, from the environment, and primarily through its mother, is for its needs to be satisfied. This is how we grow.


In other words, we need to understand that we deliberately received the egoistic desire we are born with, so we may build atop it a form of connection that is different from our original nature, an altruistic form of giving and bonding using the law of, "habit becomes a second nature."


We, in our selfish egoistic nature, are opposite from the altruistic form that cares for what is best for everyone. We are individualists. Each of us wants to profit at the expense of the other, and we are completely inconsiderate of each other. Because of this, we are in constant conflict and collision with each other. Nature has deliberately created this negative form within us, so that from it we will build the positive form, the good form that is built upon the relationships and connections among us. For this grand transformation, we will need to use all the forces at our disposal, and build a good environment consciously and with complete comprehension.

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Topic

An important means for changing the usage of the desire to receive from personal good to good for all, is the force of habit.

Main Points

  • To the degree that the environment obliges a particular habit, it becomes second nature.
  • Education is a powerful tool to transform habit into second nature.
  • Through habit, it is possible to transform an unnatural form into a natural form.
  • We are born with the desire to enjoy only for ourselves in order that over it, and consciously, we will build a correct connection between us.

References

"We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

Aristotle Quotations List

"Habit and intention in everyday life: The multiple processes by which past behavior predicts future behavior."

PsycArticles - Psychological Bulletin, Vol 124(1), Jul 1998, 54-74. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.124.1.54

"Measures of implicit associative knowledge suggested that habits are triggered directly—without dependence on goals—by the context cues that consistently accompanied past performance (Study 2). This direct cuing was confirmed in a laboratory experiment on speech habits (Study 3) and a field experiment on eating habits (Study 4). We propose that direct cuing is a core attribute of habits that accounts for a central challenge of behavior change whereby changing people's behavioral goals rarely engenders habit change."

 

"The idea that much of everyday life is cued by external factors may seem to be a
depressing commentary on human agency. Although habits clearly do undermine choice and goal-pursuit on occasion, there is good reason to think that their net influence on agency is positive (Pascoe, Neal, Toner, & Wood, 2009)."

Paper - Do Habits Depend on Goals?: Perceived versus Actual Role of Goals in Habit Performance

Engage Yourself

Question 1: The following is a quotation from an essay by Russell Gough, Professor of Philosophy from Pepperdine University, California:

"You truly need to practice being of good character.  I find this useful to ask myself again and again do I do something correctly, and if not do I know what is correct and good and do I choose to do the right thing?

Every time that we choose to do the right thing, we in fact get used to it, we train our ethical muscles to the point of "doing the right thing" and as a result of this the good transforms into a habit".

And here are two additional quotations on the subject of habit, this time from the mouth of one of the leading philosophers of all time, Aristotle:

"We are what we do again and again.  Excellence, if so, is not an activity but habit."

"Ethical characteristics are a result of habit, they are not stamped into us by nature and also not against nature, rather we are equipped by nature with a possibility of attaining them, and we develop them by means of habit."

 

Which of the following sentences describes how you feel about utilizing the principle of "habit becomes a second nature," in order to correct the relationships between us?

Question 2: Charles Duhigg, a journalist from the "New York Times," had a habit he could not get rid of. Every day between 3 and 3:30, Duhigg would leave his desk, go up to the cafeteria on the 14th floor of his office building, and eat a chocolate chip cookie.  When his wife commented to him that  he was beginning to look like a cookie, Charles set out to investigate what the mechanism is that stood behind the uncontrollable habit. Here in this video are his findings. [Link to video here, if needed.]

a. In your opinion how is it possible to use the conclusions of Duhigg, to build a society that will give a good example of the connection between us?

b. Indicate one of your habits, whose underlying motivation you can change in order to harness it for building a better environment:

Question 3: According to the text of the lesson what is it possible to do through force of habit?

Question 4: According to the text of the lesson, why were we born with a desire for pleasure only for ourselves?