It has been told that "Man is a creature of habit". Well, may be. Let us explore this some more. So, what came first, the man or the habit? Well, bad joke, never mind. What I really wanted to say was, does man makes the habit or habits make a man? This is like which came first - The egg or the chicken.
But unlike the chicken-egg question, the man-habit question has a simple straight forward answer. The answer to this is, man first makes the habit. Then, later on, habits make the man. Habits are really powerful. Once established, they run our lives in auto-pilot mode. We trust our habits so much that we never for even once doubt them. We blindly trust them and leave all our actions on them without slightest of awareness.
But again, we are the ones who form the habits. Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not a act but a habit". Man initially makes the habit by repeating an action several times. Any action that we perform produces feelings of pleasure or comfort or discomfort. These actions, if they do not produce any discomfort, we tend to perform them often. If we perform them often, these actions become easy to do. And our brain, which is has been programmed for pleasure and comfort seeking activities, slowly over a period of time, strengthens the connection between the act and the pleasure/comfort that it gives. Thus a habit is established by our own actions. But the habit, after being established, then runs our life.
Let me take an example of smoking. A person, who smokes now, was not a smoker always. When he was born, he was born with no habits at all. Over the course of his lifetime, he picked up many habits. May be out curiosity, he smoked once. He may or may not have liked the experience. Nevertheless, he did not acquire the habit of smoking yet with his first smoke. But the next week, a friend offers a smoke and he tries a few puffs.
He keeps on doing the same, whenever he meets that particular friend. One day after another, slowly, he gets into the act of smoking when he is with the friend. Slowly, he gets a kick out of smoking. His brain registers this as a pleasurable activity. He feels comfortable smoking. He gets into the habit.
Now, the habit takes over his life. He needs to smoke every 2 hours or so. Any small thing that happens in life which increases his stress levels, it calls for a comforter and the answer is a smoke. He smokes after a meal. He smokes when he reaches office. He smokes before he gets into an important meeting and smokes after the meeting is over. He always looks for opportunities to smoke and cannot stay away from it. It impacts his personal life, his professional life and his social life. He is drawn into the vertex and keeps spinning and going down ruining his health and ultimately his life.
Thus, something which started as an innocent curiosity turned out to become a Frankenstein. This is how habits control our life. But we are free to choose our habits. And we are free to change our habits also. On that some time later.