Writing: On Habits, I

“We are what we repeatedly do”—Aristotle

Habits define who we are. Indeed, as the old saying goes,

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”


We tend to identify ourselves by our profession, religion, association, race, nationality, culture, etc. But aren’t these identities also a collection of habits that one expects from or react to others? They make it possible for individuals and society to function efficiently. For individuals, habits reduce regular activities to routines, saving energy for uncertain, demanding tasks. For a society, habits program us to act in certain ways that minimize transaction costs. Imagine how different you will behave in a hippy bar and a library. The society has instilled in us the habits of tailored behavior for particular contexts.

Business people understand the potency of habits. They develop products and reward programs that aim at hooking you up, get you addicted. Pretty evil, isn’t it? Indeed, the whole fashion industry is built on this idea.

Actors also understand habits well. Many of them practice method acting. It is a technique that requires the actors to relive the character’s life, in order to reach the character’s emotions and psyche. Look at how Chris Bale and the like get their characters right.


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