The Significance of Habit
A survey of many textbooks in the field of sociology nowadays reveals that extremely very few people regard habit as a socially important type of human behavior and perhaps even none of them can entertain an extensive discussion on this subject. In fact, the majority of the professional sociological literature accords very little attention to this topic (O’Donnell et al., 1993). Nonetheless, this has not invariably been the case. Pioneers of modern sociology, European and Americans alike, appreciated the significance of habits and incorporated the idea into their conceptual frameworks. However, in the early 20th century, the term was exercised from the sociology vocabulary as a discipline distinguishable from behavioral psychology. Behaviorism showed the idea of habit as a biological reflex.
The significance of habit though has not been completely done away with, especially by a few of the social theories cognizant of the traditional philosophy of phenomenology. In recent times, in the field of sociology, these voices have actually resuscitated discourses on habit as meriting special recognition. Most conspicuously is French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, in his works, he has triggered new interests in habituated types of conduct. His notion of habitus has gained currency as a reference in the everyday growing literature of sociology on theories of human action as a practice. According to Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, the term habitus has its origin in Latin. It is derived from a verb in Latin called here, which simply translates as ‘to hold’ or ‘to have’. This concept actually stems from Bourdieu’s desire to put into perspective the question of how human actions are regulated. In a more specific sense, how the human action follows synchronized into a pattern without being a product of certain structures that are external like income, conscious intention like rational calculation, or traditional norms. Therefore, the concept of habitus is founded on the theory of action. Bourdieu’s concept advances the argument that actors act strategically and practically as opposed to conforming to sets of rules external to them. Actors are not always conformists to traditional norms or even external constraints like income. By contrast, they are strategic improvisers who simply respond to strongly ingrained past experiences vis-a-vis the opportunities presented by their present circumstances. The concept of habitus is, therefore, grounded in the theory of action, which does not entertain objectivist views that portray individual behavior as being directly influenced by some kind of external condition whether material or cultural.
Bourdieu holds the view, which is completely contradictory of philosophical existentialism that was put forward by Satre. He emphatically rejects the voluntarist view of human action that depicts individual choices as emanating from some form of human subjectivity independent of social influences. Maybe, it is worthwhile clarifying that Bourdieu singles out at least three schools of thought namely behaviorism, rational choice, and conformity to cultural norms and rules. According to the behavioral school of thought, an individual’s action does not necessarily reduce to the certain stimulus-response sequence in operant conditioning (O’Donnell et al., 1993). Instead, behavior if essentially cultural and it is triggered by a reenactment of past learning that is a product of external structures as it has already been noted. The theory of rational choice holds that very little conduct if any is controlled by conscious, rational calculation or purposeful goal-orientation. According to this school of thought, human action is practical for the most part since it is instituted with a degree of awareness. Finally, the third school of thought does not consider human action as basically a matter of cultural conformity. Rather, it is adaptive and constitutive of cultural standards.
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Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
In his book titled ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ Stephen Convey puts forward wholesome, properly integrated and principle-centered approach by which personal and professional problems can be solved. It provides a blow by analysis of the seven habits of highly effective people.
For starters, highly effective people are proactive. This means that we are responsible for our own life. The initiative to make things happen resides in ourselves and for this reason; we are not supposed to blame circumstances (Covey, 1989). Life does not just happen, we design it. For instance, we choose failure, happiness, sadness, and decisiveness. We should, therefore, bear in mind that every single moment or situation provides a completely new choice. In so doing, it offers us an opportunity to do things differently so as to produce more positive results. Proactive people hardly waste their time agonizing over conditions over which they have little or no control.
Secondly, highly effective people begin with the end in mind. What this means is that they see the end result before they actually get there. When we were little kids, people always asked us what we wanted to become when we grew up, which sounded a little trite, right? Whether we all grew to become what we wanted is beside the point. An old adage says that no wind blows in favor of a ship, which has no direction. Nothing, in fact, gets truer. Beginning with the end in mind helps people to visualize what they value most. One way to incorporate this habit in our lives is by developing a personal mission statement, which acts as a compass, which directs us to where we want to be at the end.
Thirdly, effective people know how to put first things first. To lead a more fulfilling life you must take cognizance of the fact that life needs to be balanced, that is to say, failing to do all that comes along is not always proper. Indeed, all it calls for is having no illusion about when to say no and then to focus on your highest priorities. This habit revolves around time management-ones purpose, roles, values, and more important priorities. Putting first things first helps one to organize and manage time according to priorities espoused inhabit two.
Fourthly, effective people never entertain a mindset of failure. Theirs is a win-win affair. Contrary to the popular view, thinking win-win is actually not about being nice nor is it a technique you develop overnight. No. It is a character-grounded code of human interaction as well as collaboration. Unfortunately, the majority have, for instance, been basing their worth on comparison and completion. To them, life is a zero-sum game so that they think that they can only succeed when others are failing. By contrast, win-win takes life to be a cooperative arena so that it is a frame of mind that often times seek mutual gains in all human interactions.
The fifth habit is about seeking to engender effective communication. This means seeking to understand before one can be understood. Effective communication is a very crucial life skill and little wonder then that we spend a considerable amount of time learning how to read, write and speak. Anyway, have you ever wondered how much time we spend learning how to listen? Do people go for training on how to better understand their fellow human beings through listening? A resounding no is an answer, correct? It has been shown that most people listen with the intention of replying and this makes them miss the most salient bits of the conversation, which consequently denies them the opportunity to better understand those they are conversing with. Effective listening calls for deliberate attempts to get into the other person’s frame of mind and think as they do. In legal circles, this is called a meeting of the mind (Covey, 1989). The most unfortunate thing about this is that very few people possess the skills to listen properly. Are you one of them?
The sixth habit is the ability to combine all the other habits in order to synergize. Simply put, synergizing means ‘two heads are better than one’ and humorists add that not when both are stupid. This actually means teamwork, open-mindedness and the ability to seek new solutions to old problems. Needless to mention, this does not come very easily, but rather it is a process. Synergy helps us to discover jointly things that we would otherwise not discover on our own. It is the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Having all the habits is better for individuals than possessing one or just two of them. Both synergy and communication enable people to open their minds to new possibilities.
Lastly, effective people know when and how to sharpen their saws. It means that they are able to preserve and enhance the greatest asset they possess, that is, themselves. This habit revolves around making all other habits possible. It simply means having a system for renewing oneself in the four spheres of life namely emotional or social, physical, mental and spiritual. The physical sphere revolves around caring for oneself in a manner that seems effective. Whereas spiritual takes more time, mental development is engendered by formal education. As people progress in their renewal in the four spheres of life, they get the opportunity to grow and change in life. Therefore, sharpening the saw enables one to practice the other six habits.
Cultivating these habits requires continuous learning and commitment. These are prerequisite for the progress. Perhaps, the most obvious way to develop these skills is through practice. Being highly effective in today’s challenging and complex world is the price one has to pay to gain entry into the playing field. In order to excel, innovate, thrive and lead the new reality, we have to strive to reach beyond effectiveness to actual fulfillment and greatness. Recent researches have revealed that the majority of people are not thriving, but instead, are unexcited and unfulfilled. If one wishes to reach the highest human motivation, a shift in the mindset, that is a new habit, is of the essence. According to Stephen R. Convey, every individual has the potential for greatness (Covey, 1989). Therefore, in order to explain his case, he has compiled a special collection of stories from the leader’s digest and has as well added commentaries to buttress the sensational examples of people who are living their lives to the fullest.
From the foregoing discussion, it is apparent that developing a certain positive habit is more a matter of choice than fate. People must make a deliberate effort to develop and nurture these habits. Moreover, they should be alive to the fact that acquiring a certain habit does not take place instantaneously, and calls for a great deal of time and commitment. From a personal viewpoint, the power of a habit is the one that triggers all kinds of insights and strategies one can employ to see what is behind their brains. One begins to understand how habits are actually formed as well as how to recognize when a habitual behavior is at play. Additionally, they should be able to differentiate between the habits which they desire from those that they do not like.