What a man becomes is largely determined by his dominant thoughts and habits. Habit formation comes easy because constant repetition is the major process involved. Repetition makes an action progressively easier until it becomes a habit and thus virtually automatic.
Before you learnt how to drive, you must have wondered how people were able to do it, manoeuvering through congested traffic and narrowly avoiding head on collision. But today, you see it as no big deal.
What happens in the process is that the initial attempts come from the conscious mind. Then, through constant attempts or practice, the subconscious mind gradually takes over and it becomes an ‘unconscious’ act or a habit. The interesting thing is that both good and bad habits are formed in the same way.
For instance, if you choose to meditate every night, the time will come when it will become so easy and normal that not meditating in the night becomes difficult and unusual to you. So is a bad habit formed.
Even an act as grave as murder begins in this simple process. It may not start as an intent to commit the crime, but as a thought of hatred constantly entertained. It soon intensifies to the extreme. Then the first act is committed. After that it gets easier with each subsequent act until it becomes as normal as killing a mosquito.
We must be careful about what habits we form because they are not easy to break. In fact, at times it is easier to form a habit than to break it.
While you can learn to drive in a matter of days, you can hardly unlearn it afterwards. And that is why under normal circumstances, it is difficult for a good man to suddenly turn bad, and vice versa.
That is also why where the tendency towards violence becomes a collective habit, restoring peace in that community takes time and efforts. Those with violent habits do not need a good reason to perpetrate their evil acts, they are just after feeding their habit.
The same thing goes for a corrupt society. The primitive accumulation of wealth at the expense of others is just a habit-feeding behaviour.
Habit can uplift a man and rank him among great men, and it can also bring him down below the level of beasts. So, what habit are you forming today?
* Sumaila Umaisha writes in Abuja