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The Magic Loom of Habit

Another essay by Earl Nightingale from the How to Completely Change Your Life Series

The Magic Loom of Habit - Earl Nightingale

We are all creatures of habit. We can do most things without even thinking about them; our bodies take charge and do them for us. When you dress, for instance, your mind can be completely preoccupied with something else. Your hands take over, independently, and do the whole job for you. All you do consciously is select what you are going to wear.

I can sit at my electric typewriter with my mind completely on the thoughts, words, and ideas I want to put down. As the ideas form in my mind, my fingers automatically spell out the words on the typewriter. In a way, it’s uncanny. It is as though there are little subminds in each hand that translate the ideas into words, the words into letters, and then cause the right fingers to strike the right keys. Of course, the hands and fingers are not infallible, as any typist knows.

Habits, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. There once was a man who formed the compulsive habit of collecting magazines. He collected all kinds of magazines, thousands of them, which he carefully stored in great stacks in his attic. He did this for twelve years. One night he was awakened by a terrifying sound. The tons of magazines had finally reached the critical weight. The old beams gave a last agonizing cry, and then all his beloved magazines, along with the ceiling and the attic floor, came down on top of him in a final, fatal crash. He became another victim of what turned out to be a bad habit.

People are killed and injured every day as a result of bad habits. The person who forms the habit of smoking in bed may one day be immolated by it. Fatal or near-fatal ends also await the high-speed driver, the overeater, the overdrinker, the loudmouth, and the bully.

If you’ll forgive a rather bad pun—we are indeed clothed by our habits. Just as a person such as a priest, a policeman, a horseman, or a house painter is known and recognized by the habit he wears, we are all of us known by the habits we form; good and bad.

A bad habit resisted is more easily resisted the next time. A good habit deliberately begun is more easily performed the next time. As the spider spins its web from delicate gossamer threads into a tough trap for the unwary, so we daily spin the threads of habit until they form themselves into cables, difficult if not impossible to break.

I had dinner once with a fine and very successful man who had somehow formed the habit of making loud, strangling sounds as he ate his soup. I was amazed and disappointed, as were the other diners within earshot. I said, “Your soup must be much better than mine.” He asked, “Why?” And I said, “Because it sounds so much better.” He just smiled and bent his head back to its noisy task. It was a habit I am certain he couldn’t hear as we could.

As a parent, you may lay the foundation of poverty or riches, industry or idleness, good or evil, by the habits you instill in your children.

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