First, habits aren’t vices nor virtues. They mesh into virtues and vices, but they are not them. The definition says a habit is:
a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up
The tendency is more like a vice/ virtue. Practice is more of a habit. It’s a specific behavior.
Let me clear this with an example. Kindness is a virtue. And there are many different habits that let you practice this virtue.
Saying “Hello, I’m sorry, thank you” is a habit. Uttering those expressions doesn’t automatically make you a kind person. But it’s more likely than not.
It works the same way with vices. Gluttony is a vice. Snacking unnecessarily often between meals is a bad habit which (pun intended) feeds the vice.
But the facets of gluttony are diverse. You may indulge in sweets, or bread, or alcohol, or potato chips. Different practices, the same vice.
Habits Create Your Tendencies (Virtues or Vices)
Everything is interconnected inside a human soul. It’s impossible to have bad habits and not undermine your virtues. It’s impossible to practice good habits and grow your vices.
The wonderful (and scary) thing about habits is that they constitute who you are. Your daily repeated actions shape you into a person full of virtues or full of vices. It’s not speculation. Lots of sages throughout the millennia stated this in different words.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ― Will Durant
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” ― Lao Tzu
Even the etymology of the word habit confirms that.
The word “habit” comes from Old French “abit”, habit, from Latin habitus ‘condition, appearance,’ from “habere” ‘have, consist of.’ The term originally meant ‘dress, attire’, and the noun habit meant monks’ outfit. The habit was an external sign of a monk’s internal constitution, which defined their whole lives.
Later, the meaning of this word drifted to denote physical or mental constitution.
Habits constitute who we are and who we will become.
— Michał Stawicki, The Art of Persistence
What Is the Effect?
Practice bad habits and you will feed your vices. Your will gets weaker.
Practice good habits and you will feed your virtues. Your will gets stronger.
The more bad habits you have, the easier you will succumb to another bad habit. The more good habits you have, the easier will be for you to resist temptations and do what’s right. Your habits become your life philosophy. And here is a great illustration of this principle:
Originally published on Quora