Breaking The Habit

A habit is something we do on a regular basis until it becomes involuntary and a part of our lives. Starting a habit is in some cases easier than in others, but breaking a habit is usually the hardest part. Samuel Johnson states that “The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” I disagree with this statement because I believe that people can improve and change. I also believe that nothing is impossible if we really set our minds to it, but the act of really giving all our effort into the action is probably the hardest part since it is always easier to give up, even if it makes us unhappy.

Habits are like lice. They are easy to get and you are not aware that they’re casually jumping from one head to another while you’re getting them. At first there are few of them and you don’t even notice, but once you have entire generations of lice living on your head, your head starts itching and you realize what’s going on. Even once you know that you have an issue it takes a long time to get the lice off your head, you may try using different methods which may not always work, but after trying hard you can get rid of them one way or another, even if it means shaving off your entire hair. I’ve had lice several times in my life because I always played with my friend, who was known to have lice throughout the entire village. So even though my mother always told me not to get close to her I did it anyway and eventually got lice, which I couldn’t get rid of for almost three months. Bad habits are also similar to lice because they tend to come from actions or people your parents usually warn you to stay away from.

I have several bad habits, but on the top of my list would be being lazy and leaving everything for the last day and my unhealthy eating habits. The first bad habit on my list is a habit I didn’t always used to have. Probably until fifth grade I would do my homework on the date it was given rather than the night before it was due. Once I got older and once my mom stopped checking on my homework I started putting it of bit by bit. One day I would do it only a day before it had to be handed in and the next day I would just finish my homework minutes before class. So my bad study habits had literally just snuck up on me without me even realizing that I was getting them. I am now aware that this is an awful habit especially because I’m in the IB program, but I believe that if I’d really wanted to change it I could. The problem with this habit of mine is that I don’t see it as a big issue yet because I haven’t really gotten into trouble because of it. I also think that I can work much faster under pressure and leaving everything for the last minute gives me a very good motivation to get the task done. So even though I’m aware about this bad habit of mine I am not trying to change it because it hasn’t really affected me in a negative way yet (other than getting a little deprived of sleep.)

The second habit I want to address is my unhealthy eating habit. I have one of the worst eating habits I know of, which is actually a pretty hard task considering that I’m a vegetarian. My eating habits were never the best because when I was younger I used to do four hours of gymnastics every day which meant that I could eat a lot without gaining any weight. Of course I ate all my healthy foods too, but on top of all that I would eat enormous amounts of sweets and fatty foods. The moment I started realizing that I didn’t have the best eating habits was not the moment I stopped doing sports, but several years afterwards. Because once I went from more than four hours of sports a day to almost no physical activity at all, without changing my eating habits, my body couldn’t burn everything I ate, but because I had built up a lot of muscle over the years I had a really fast metabolism. So only about two years ago I realized that I had horrible eating habits. I could basically take a big jar of Nutella and eat it like pudding all at once. I am currently trying to change my eating habits and even though it is awfully hard I believe that I can do it because I’ve already done it before. Two years ago I used to eat every kind of meat. I probably liked meat more than any other food, yet today I’m a vegetarian and don’t miss any of it.

When I look at Okonkwo’s habits after writing about my own experience it seems to be an entirely different issue. Like me Okonkwo seems to be aware of his habits, but unlike me he does not have the will to change. It seems that Okonkwo has such hatred against his father and his laziness that anything but being the opposite of Unoka is not enough for him. Okonkwo seems to be very stubborn in changing his habits and opinions. He is obviously aware of his mistakes after he does them, yet he doesn’t take any action in order to change. Okonkwo has the habit of doing anything in order to avoid seeming weak and a habit of using violence when something doesn’t go his way. When he kills Ikemefuna he knows that it’s wrong, but what is even more important to him is to appear strong. After he kills Ikemefuna Okonkwo feels horrible and refuses to eat or talk to anyone. It is obvious that he regrets what he has done, but after he comes out of his depression he is almost the same Okonkwo he was before. What happens to Okonkwo is that he gets aware of his habit, but he doesn’t try to “break the chains of habit” which he probably could if he really wanted to.

Okonkwo acts stubborn when it comes to breaking habits and also he doesn’t seem fully convinced that his habits are bad. He is a little childish when it comes to making bad decisions because he makes them, realizes them, feels awful about them, but in the end instead of considering breaking the habit he just makes the same mistakes all over again. When Okonkwo kills the messenger by the end of the book it is obvious that he hasn’t changed. Okonkwo just acts the way he would have acted several years ago and uses violence to solve the problem. The problem doesn’t resolve by killing the messenger though which Okonkwo is also aware of, but instead of facing the consequences it seems that he acts impulsively again by committing suicide.

Some habits are harder to break than others. A habit is especially hard to break if we are not convinced that it is a bad one. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to break my habit of leaving everything for the last day and Okonkwo doesn’t seem to believe that his acts of aggression are worth breaking, but we are both aware of them and they have a great impact on our lives. Breaking a habit has to do with how determined you are about breaking it and about not giving up. So I disagree with Samuel Johnson who said that “The chains of habit are generally too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”


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