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Inspirational and Insightful Quotations #49 --- Habits

Updated on March 20, 2011

Quotations on Habits

We are where we are and what we are because of the habits we live by each day.

Habits are of two types--those we deliberately cultivate to attain desired ends, and those which fasten themselves upon us as a result of circumstances we do not try to avoid or control.

Voluntary habits which we set up in our minds and express repeatedly through our words and deeds are the only dependable means of insuring success in any calling.

A "planned" life is the only successful way to make life pay off on one's own terms. Every successful career needs the same planning, the same budget of time, energy, and money that goes into a successful business enterprise.

—Napoleon Hill, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, Aug. 24, 1956.

An impulse to successful habit formation is self-confidence coupled with the will to see a thing through. If a person does not believe in himself it is difficult to inspire sufficient confidence to insure the success of an undertaking worthwhile. ... Habit determines character. Habit is character.

—Ernest P. Carr, Education, November 1918.

Habits are the flights of stairs that lead to the halls of character.

—J. Benjamin Lawrence, Baptist Record, Jackson, Miss., March 30, 1916.

Habits are safer than rules; you don't have to watch them. And you don't have to keep them, either. They keep you. One habit is worth a dozen rules. Habit is not only the secret of efficiency but also of personality. And personality is the distillation of our daily needs. It is the silt of the soul left there by the passing over of millions of thoughts and acts. It is habit, the habit of our molecules, so to speak.

—Frank Crane, American Magazine, Springfield, Ohio, July 1920.

Some of us think the best way to break a bad habit is to taper it off. Our mistaken idea is not to subject ourselves to the shock and strain of breaking off a habit sharply. We think we can do better by letting go gradually. But the real fact is that to taper off means merely to stall around with the habit until we get to going on it strong again. Tapering off is a poor method. It usually succeeds only in keeping the habit alive during a dull period and before long it is stronger than ever.

—Grove H. Patterson, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 17, 1930.

One of the interesting characteristics of the present age is not our bad habits, but the fact that we don't admit that they are bad habits. If we do what was once considered wrong, we build up a pleasant philosophy for ourselves to cover the situation. We contrive to live in a sinless world of our own making. Somewhere there must be, for those intelligent enough to find it, a course of right and reason--a road of moderation on which one can travel with self-respect.

—Grove H. Patterson, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., May 15, 1931.

Habits are much harder to break then resolutions. We cannot build for years and then remodel overnight. The process must be gradual. If you are looking toward the future, anxious to better yourself and enhance the value of your possessions, moral, financial, and otherwise, be careful of the habits you form, for once established they are very exacting masters. Character is the result of tedious years of labor, established through the enactment of proper habits. Success is the reward of the formulation of certain plans, which are more or less habits.

—Howard D. Strother, The New Era, Eunice, La., Jan. 3, 1939.

Habit is a sum of additions. It is the sum of a great number of right or wrong actions--the sum of the results of right nerve impulses or wrong ones, stored away in nerve centers. ... The man who lays foundations of character by adding a succession of right actions to right actions has a power within himself that sets automatically in the performing of many and great services.

—C.S. Maddocks, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Dec. 24, 1911.

Reformation is a matter of switching. After running along one track, we switch to another.

That is all there is to any change in a man on his institutions; it is the method in political revolution, business readjustment or religious conversion. It is the trick of changing over from one habit to another.

We all run in ruts. We are like railroad trains, not like automobiles, for we run on tracks. If we get off the track, and don't get on another, we are ditched.

Now, when we want to break a bad habit, say, drinking, or idling, or gambling, or profligacy, or ugly temper, or petulance, or any such thing, one trouble is that, while we see clearly the track we want to go from, we do not form a definite enough idea of the track we want to go to. It is not so much ceasing the use of alcoholic stimulants we should keep on our minds, not this negative idea, but the pleasure, comfort, health and vigor that come from consuming wholesome nourishment.

Many a man has fully made up his mind to quit booze, but merely sticks there, "all dressed up and nowhere to go."

Nature abhors a vacuum. The soul abhors a "don't." Show us what to do! And it is important, not only to have another track ready upon which to go when we leave the old one, but also to attend to the switch. That is to say, in supplanting a bad habit with a good one the attention should be concentrated upon the act of changing.

For instance, in breaking yourself of fits of ungovernable temper or of sulking, it is not enough to use your imagination to depict to yourself how much better you would appear if you had poise and self-restraint, and if you remained calm, unruffled and cheerful under all provocations, you must also use your imagination, and your will and judgment as well, to picture for yourself your right course of action at the very moment of temptation.

It is not only how to act a year from now, or when you get old, that you want to know and to practice, but how to act at the particular juncture of time. In other words, you must learn how to throw the switch deftly, how to get suddenly from the old road and habit to the new without running off the track.

If you want to change successfully, concentrate upon the act of changing, think of that, study that, practice that and do not waste all your moral enthusiasm in thinking how well you are going to get along after the change has been made.

—Frank Crane, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., Dec. 10, 1919.

If all people knew just what failure meant, they would flee from it as a pestilence. Success or failure is the result of a conflict between good and evil.

Success in life is almost always settled while one is young. Most people settle this question before they are twenty years of age, if not soon thereafter. Often young people think that after a while they will make a success of their life; but it does not come, because their life-habits are fixed.

Industry and truthfulness are cardinal virtues in a successful life. The young man or the young woman who practices industry will become industrious; the young man or the young woman who practices truth will become truthful. In their lives these virtues will develop into fine habits.

But the indispensable prerequisites or a successful life are energy and politeness. These virtues, developed into a habit, will have the greatest effect in determining success. What is habit? Development of instinct. It is just as easy to develop good habits as it is to develop bad habits. I do not say that whatever habits you may have acquired, you won't make mistakes; they come to all. But a mistake is not always a bad thing. It may be only a signpost showing to you the weak spots in your character.

One man learns from his own mistakes, one man learns from the mistakes of others, and the third man learns neither from his own mistakes nor from the mistakes of others.

—A.B. Watkins, The Prairie, Canyon, Texas, June 20, 1921.

Habit is your best friend or your worst enemy.

—Phil Conley, The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., Oct. 14, 1947.

If you would form a good habit, put it to intelligent use. A good habit was never formed by merely thinking about it, and a bad habit was never broken by expressing regrets.

—Phil Conley, The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., July 28, 1948.

No amount of repetition can make a bad habit look good.

—Bill Copeland, Sarasota Journal, Sarasota, Fla., May 8, 1968.

If you would be an habitual winner, you first have to win over your habits.

—Bill Copeland, Sarasota Journal, Sarasota, Fla., June 16, 1969.

We form habits; then habits form–or deform–us.

—B.C. Forbes, Forbes Magazine, New York, N.Y., Aug. 1, 1928.

The wheels of habit follow ruts of precedence.

—W.A. MacKenzie, The Leesburg Morning Commercial, Leesburg, Fla., April 10, 1927.

No deed or habit can be properly evaluated without considering its social implications.

—James DeForest Murch, Christian Standard, Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct. 10, 1942.

Many a man would be tempted to break off his bad habits if it weren't tantamount to a confession that he has bad habits.

—Duncan M. Smith, Morgantown Daily Post, Morgantown, W.Va., May 18, 1906.

Good habits need to be cultivated. Bad ones will take care of themselves.

—Ernest C. Wareing, Western Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 3, 1924.

Before one forms a habit he should estimate the cost of its upkeep.

—Roy L. Smith, Christian Advocate, Chicago, Ill., July 31, 1947.

Every time you conquer a bad habit you have added to your will-capital.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., March 31, 1930.

The longer you delay breaking a bad habit, the harder it becomes.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., Sept. 16, 1942.

Don't let a bad habit get a mortgage on your life.

Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, Mont., May 13, 1935.

Habits bless us; habits damn us. We can do almost anything with our habits; our habits can do almost anything with us. ...

All the regular functions of the body are matters of habit. The breathing of the lungs, the beating of the heart, the chemical industries of the liver are the expressions of habit in the various organs. Nor are habits limited to subconscious activities. The child consciously learns to walk. Once the habit is formed, walking becomes automatic.

By correlation of finders and eyes the musician is able to interpret unfamiliar music, even while his mind is occupied by thoughts in nowise associated with the composition. Indeed, there are few limits to the wonders that may be accomplished by physical training and the establishment of habits.

Here there is close analogy between mind and body. Just as bodily habits are readily formed, so the mind responds quickly to training, grows accustomed to a certain action, develops a habit.

While all of us appreciate the vital effects of habits, good or bad, on the body, comparatively few give due heed to the supreme importance of mental habits. The average person cheerfully admits that he has a poor memory; it never occurs to him that he has the power to control his memory. Or he confesses, without shame, that he has no "knack" for this or for that, in contented ignorance of the fact that his mental inertia in any direction is simply the result of an habitual disuse. Contrariwise, I know one man who good naturedly boasts that he can do anything anyone else can do--and he almost lives up to his saying.

By forming of habits, channels are made through which energy flows unhindered, so that it may be applied in its full strength toward the purpose to be achieved. This fact remains whether the habits be virtuous or vicious.

We speak of a person as getting into a rut. It is easy going in the rut. Once in, it is mighty hard to get out. The word is usually employed in a bad sense, because we refer thus to one who takes the easiest way, and the easiest way is not always--if ever--the best way. The man in the rut is the bond slave of habit. He may realize the folly of his course, but he is powerless to change it. As we look about us we see in any such men in inferior positions who dare to make no effort toward their own betterment.

Nevertheless, habit, while the worst of masters, is the best of servants. A professor in theology once explained to me the ideal of perfect freedom for the Christian. It lies in a total of righteous habits. He experiences perfect freedom.

In a sense, character is the sum of an individual's habits.

Since habits are so tremendous in their consequences, it is obvious that we should use every care concerning them. We should scrutinize them painstakingly in every instance to determine whether they will work good or ill in our behalf. Nor should such inspection be delayed. A single repetition is the start of a habit, and habit, once started, grows with astonishing swiftness to more astonishing strength. Taken at the outset, habit is easily checked; afterward the task becomes ever increasingly difficult, at last perhaps impossible.

The formation of right habits gives ease in performance; there is no loss of energy; every bit of it is effectively employed. The result is a delight in accomplishment. The perfect sinner sings the most difficult cadenza with seeming ease. Moreover, that seeming ease is real. Were there effort, the perfect tone could not be produced.

It is the same in every form of activity. Boxer, fence, aviator, riveter, prestigitater, chemist, painter, mathematician–one and all having skill in the doing of things are those trained in the formation of right habits.

In a subtle way the mind trained by right habits to skilled operation has graces of its own analogous to those of the body, but more profoundly significant, more beautiful. ...

The principles that are vital to right mental operations must be not only learned, they must be followed; they must be practiced until out of such practice grow habits.

With the establishment of these habits the mind comes to its perfection. It develops its power to the full.

—Marvin Dana, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., April 11, 1919.

Habits are of primary importance. Character is hardly more than the sum total of habits. Moreover, habits are either good or bad; they are not neutral. The habit that is neither distinctly good nor bad in itself, seemingly, is inevitably a time waster, and on that account bad.

—Marvin Dana, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., Oct. 8, 1919.


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