Patrick Brennan, mathematics and philosophy junior, publishes opinion piece on character and virtue during college years in Kentucky Kernel:
At a young age, the habits we form in school and at home ideally help us face problems later in life with ease.
However, it seems to me that the characteristics which grant success in those settings do not transfer over, because in our society, adult life is radically different. College students may struggle if they cannot adapt and form new habits.
Some people might not agree that humans are creatures of habit. Is it not the case that we are free to make new choices at every moment?
One could go on to say that people should avoid habits and routines because they are restricting. Taken too far, habits can make a person close-minded or alienated. Worse still, routines make room for stress when they are broken.
Nonetheless, I believe that we all form habits, and we are all therefore creatures of habit.
Think of someone that you know personally. I’m sure you could say something about their personality, character or disposition. These are posited as our concepts, like “friendly” or “hard-working,” map the evidence we see.
If we grant that people have a character or disposition, though, then we must accept that people form habits, which are simply the evidence we use to conceptualize particular personalities.
Therefore, the objector above who wants to avoid habits and routines is actually just making non-habit formation their habit. Further, routines do not need to be connected with stress; we determine our own reactions.
Sometimes habit formation can be challenging. Many students may have discovered that this semester because of all of the interruptions in school. It seemed like every time we began to get into a rhythm, our routines and schedules were disrupted with another week off.
However, habit formation is not just about staying in a routine. More than anything, it is about making the right action easy to grasp. Put differently, habit formation is about orienting pleasures and pains to correspond with how we want to be.
This means that we must sometimes struggle against our pleasures and pains in order to re-orient them. For example, a healthy amount of exercise might be painful or unwanted to someone who does not exercise, but the same person could come to love exercise over time.
Another example is taste in food. If you grew up on an unhealthy diet, as many Americans do, then you have to branch out and have faith in order to develop a taste for healthy food.
It often helps to see the physical basis for habit formation; in the case of food, much of our cravings are determined by the bacteria in our gut, which are in turn determined by what we eat daily.
Ultimately, since habit formation will happen, we should be mindful of it. With effort, you can make a habit out of good habit formation, and troubles should turn to ease.
Patrick Brennan is a mathematics and philosophy junior.