How are habits built? 

Epictetus said habit-forming, as we described at the top, was like lighting a fire. But even more clearly and beautifully, he put it:

     “ Every habit and capability is confirmed and it grows in its corresponding actions, walking by walking, running by running… therefore if you want to do something make a habit of it if you don’t want to do it, don’t, but make a habit of something else instead. ” 

Whatever the tradition is, from day one it starts to find power. The fire is ignited by any resulting movement. For the Stoics, that is why the most critical part of habit-forming is beginning. The leading experts of today all agree. 

James Clear, the author, talks about the principle of “atomic behaviors,” little actions that make a big difference in your life. “Similarly, Leo Babauta talks about making it so ridiculously convenient,” that you can not say no. If you don’t do that, you’ll feel insane. And then you’ll do it, honestly! “Would you like to start working out? Commit to five push-ups being completed. Do you like healthier food? Commit yourself to eat one serving a day of vegetables. Would you want to floss regularly? Agree to get one tooth flossed. Would you like to write a book? Commit one sentence to publishing.


The ‘small start’ technique 

Why does the old “small start” technique that Epictetus learned some two thousand years ago work? Ok, an appreciation of current science is helpful. Then, habit-forming mechanism is rooted in a neural loop, composed of three stages: Elliot Berkman, director of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of Oregon:

  • Then, starts with a cue-the stimulus (a time of day, a certain location, certain people’s appearance, a certain emotion).

  •  The ritual is next; the pattern or action itself.

  • Last is the reward, the anchor, the dopamine touch, strengthening the brain to be on high alert for the signal that sparks the gratification-bringing ritual.

You just got home from work (cue), so you pop a bottle (routine), because you want to forget the long day at work (reward). In another case, you just woke up (cue) in the morning, so you go for a quick jog (routine), and after a heavy sweat (reward), you feel amazing. 

The reward generates a desire and then cements it.

 It doesn’t take the brain long to equate needing a drink with walking in the door or waking up with wanting to go for a run. Then, is the “habit loop.” It’s clear to see that behavior becomes more and more automatic as time goes by.

Way to Healthy Habits: An End to Unhealthy One’s

It was intuited by Epictetus, illustrated by neuroscientists and habit professionals (like Charles Duhigg, author of The Force of Habit) that the secret to habit-forming, ancient and new, is the same. Start Little.

The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Morality, Pleasure, and Efficacy by Sharon Lebell offers a beautiful description of what Stoicism supposed to achieve. The object of philosophy, “she writes,” is to illuminate how unsound values, untrained turbulent impulses, and questionable life choices and tastes that unworthy of us have corrupted our spirit. A major cure to this is a self-scrutiny with kindness.

By theory, kicking unhealthy habits built to achieve better. So Seneca, in truth, said it directly. Then, We get a comment  in one of Seneca’s letters, which is an excerpt from the  translation of How To Die, by James Romm: “My days have this one goal, as do my nights; this is my mission and my research, to bring an end to old evils.” Note what his aims not said by this very experienced writer and powerbroker. It wasn’t about making more money, about passing new rules, about composing more brilliant phrases to dazzle the masses or something like that.”

He said his intention was to bring an end to bad habits of his own. Nothing mattered, actually, or, at least, relative to if he was making improvements as a human.

When was he doing that?

As James Simple puts it: “You’re not doing away with a bad habit, you’re removing it.”

We confidently conclude that Seneca had a poor temper, overindulging his frustration until it became a concern.

Why else would he, in a single essay on rage, write in about two hundred pages? 

Such a remarkable feat that can only come as a result of practice.

 Then, article is where Seneca writes:

The best way to break a bad habit is to Replace a good one with that!

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