2. Thought Habit
WE are all creatures of habit. A deep rut is worn by a meadow brook because it has run in the same channel for a long time. It is no less true of a thought channel. In either case it is not easy to turn it into a new course.
Habit is a natural and universal law. As applied to thought, if we understand and control its action, it will perform wonders for us. Like an intelligent and trained assistant it multiplies our ability and builds our character.
On the contrary, if we carelessly yield to its rule, it becomes tyrannical, and we drop into servitude.
Thoughts of all sorts come trooping along and knock at the door of mind. They are of all shades and qualities. There are the high and the low, the good and bad, the selfish and unselfish, the pure and impure, the sickly and healthful, the fearful and courageous, the God-like and devilish, thoughts of love and hate, of cheer and despondency. Which will we admit? Each one that we receive makes its distinctive mark upon us. Like a line of customers in a bank each one leaves a deposit.
We invite some favorite thoughts into our inner reception-room for a longer stay, and make them at home. Avoid this unless you wish to become like them. We sooner or later manifest the effect of their company. Intimacy continued fastens their habit upon us.
These inner companions influence us far more than our nearest personal friends. The latter are comparatively far away; the particular thoughts of which we cultivate the intimacy gradually give us their features, their accent, and all their mannerisms.
Thoughts steal in that we have not consciously invited. They will not always depart by word of command, but they may be elbowed out by others which we choose, if they have not become too intimate.
Thought habit is character. You are what previous thinking has made you.
"All habits gather by unseen degrees,
As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas."
Get out of unwholesome ruts. It matters not whether they were made by past dogmatisms, by heredity, by other people, or by yourself. Their walls on either side are hardening.
Be your real self, and you will be original. Originality draws the world together in love and mutual appreciation. Each then finds outside just what he lacks in himself.
Truth follows no rut. It is better to search for it than to walk in the groove of some leader's estimate of it. New Thought exponents are no exception.
You must have your own New Thought, rather than that which belongs to someone else.
There is too much "I am of Paul," and "I am of Apollos."
The genuine New Thought which you seek is impersonal until it becomes personal in you.
Other opinions and standpoints are good as aids and suggestions, but final authority should be within.
Your own religious denomination, political party, class or union is yours, because of concentrated and habitual thinking. You have entertained (how significant the word) fifty favorable thoughts in the line of your own association as often as one regarding that of your neighbor.
You have created your own horizon. You think that you think as you do because it is reasonable, true, or wise. But you have neighbors equally intelligent and conscientious who think the same of their respective systems. Each has taken on the color and quality of his own habitual thoughts. That is the cause of his own present views, but you cannot make him believe it. The old saw is true—
"A man convinced against his will,
Is of the same opinion still."
What has been called the will is simply concentrated thought along a given line.
But it would be absurd to claim that people never change and make a new departure. In practice no working principle can be pressed to an extreme. Never before was there so little dogmatism and so much openness to truth, for its own sake, as there is today.
As people learn the nature, extent, and power of thought habit, there will be a still greater advance.
What we call physical habits are really thought habits. Thought results in action, and the same thought repeated causes a repetition of the act. Even the automatic act is always the result of the automatic thought. No man walks until be thinks walking, even though the thought becomes unconscious as he takes step by step.
Man is man because he is a thinker. His action, simple or habitual, is only thought made visible.
An occasional inventive genius has spent his life in an effort to invent mechanical perpetual motion. But everyone already has it within. When the thinking faculty is once set in motion, the same impressions tend to repeat their circuit indefinitely.