Habits play a very crucial part in life. The personality of a person is determined by his habits. Good habits make a person gentle, genial, and great while bad habits deform and disfigure a personality. Everyone is aware of the importance of habits, and many wish to change their bad habits in order to improve their character, traits, and personality. However, people complain that they find it, well nigh impossible to uproot their deeply ingrained bad habits. This is a counsel of despair and is not true. It is of course difficult to uproot bad habits, but it is not impossible. If a person is determined and musters the requisite willpower, he can certainly succeed in his efforts.
What is a habit? It is a mental rut created by mechanical repetition of a task. The tires of a car traveling on a muddy road make a distinct impression. Similarly, the repetition of a task makes an impression on the mind. The more we repeat a task, the deeper becomes the impression. Every habit, thus, gets firmly fixed in the mind.
A habit can be uprooted by steadily and persistently working against it. Just as performing a task again and again creates a habit, performing an opposite task again and again eliminates it. If your mind forces you towards the old habit, gently but firmly divert it towards the positive habit you want to imbibe instead. It is always easy to go back to old habits, and therefore, the mind gets effortlessly inclined towards them. The formation of a new habit is therefore very difficult initially. However, with repeated performance, it takes roots and becomes a part of one's nature.
The refinement of gross and perverse tendencies in a person's personality or bad manners in his conduct is possible only by long-term practice and unwavering determination. Every self-confident person, if he wishes, can dramatically change for the better, his mentality and outward conduct through regular practice.
Children are particularly vulnerable to easily imbibe good or bad habits. They constantly imitate the habits of people they come in contact with. To make our children well-mannered, cultured, and responsible citizens, it is necessary that we ourselves present an example of an ideal conduct before them, so that they can follow in our footsteps and enrich their lives with inspiration and enthusiasm. If parents exhibit laziness or misbehavior in their conduct (for e.g. getting up late in the morning, conversing rudely with people, making inappropriate gestures, etc.), then how can we expect their children, who remain with them for 15 - 16 hours a day, become civilized and well-mannered?
To an extent, we ourselves determine the environment around us. A cultured person will keep his things in an orderly and appropriate way. His shoes, clothes, hat, and even his comb would be neat and tidy. There would be no dirt on his shoes. His clothes would be ironed and folded neatly. He would appear attractive with simple, limited set of clothes, compared to an untidy person with an overstuffed wardrobe of costly clothes. He would attain happiness with minimum expenditure. He would not be consumed with the desire to possess a palatial house. In a small house, or even a room, he would live a rich, refined, cultured, and caring life. Good manners do not mean how we verbally interact with other people; they mean that we conduct ourselves with dignity, humility, and warmth.
You may ask, how can one say that I am conducting myself in a reprehensible and disorderly manner? It is easy and self-evident. You know that by waking up regularly, exercising the body regularly, having health-giving eating habits, remaining tension-free, and taking a good rest to keep the body vibrant and healthy. But alas! How many people can control their eating preferences? In today's hectic lifestyle, how many can remain tension free? In the mad race for earning more and more money, people have become careless with respect to their health. Many people have enough wealth, which permits them a good lifestyle, food, clothes, and a palatial house. Yet, they remain in a state of perpetual tension and agitation. Thus, we live in a self-created hell. Other examples of self-destructive habits are to watch TV continuously even though you are experiencing eye pain, to smoke tobacco, drink alcohol knowing well the damaging effects it has on the body, etc.
It becomes the bounden duty of mature and responsible members of society to be vigilant against imbibing ruinous habits, and guide and inspire their children by personal example to grow into healthy, happy, caring, and warm-hearted citizens. In a nutshell, habits that you feel require changing can be tackled by willpower alone. No force in a human body is stronger than one's willpower. One must, therefore, cultivate the habits of listening to your own mind and following it, rather that any others directive. Changing your lifestyle and environment can inch you closer day-by-day to the habits that you really long to acquire. Finally, your habits have to change.