“Sometimes you make up your mind about something without knowing why, and your decision persists by the power of inertia. Every year it gets harder to change” - Milan Kundera
This quote arrives towards the conclusion of Milan Kundera’s famous philosophical novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”
Throughout the novel, our protagonist, Tomas, hides affairs from his wife, political frustrations from his tyrannical government, and letters written by his lost son from the outside world. For the majority of the book, Tomas is a nihilistic character who finds disgust in his way of living, but he is unwilling to divorce himself from the immoralities that he believes define him. Instead, Tomas takes comfort in Mozart’s phrase “es muss sein” — or “it must be.” When faced with the challenge to change for the better, Tomas lies down and accepts his rigid existence.
That is until his wife catches him reading letters from the son he has never met and formulates an epiphany the entire novel has been building towards as read in the quote above. As Tomas’ life seems to have reached a boiling point of pent-up lies, he learns bad habits are nothing more than bad momentum.
This insight from Tomas is powerful because it gets at the root of negative habits, a lack of routines, or even something as awful as addiction. Sometimes, the origins of these actions are unexplainable, but their power grows with time. Much like knocking over the first domino, a small error can lead to rippling consequences. A lapse in reasoning, a temporary surrender to temptation, or a fall from grace. As humans, these mistakes are natural, but when bad actions compound with time and repetition, we find ourselves amidst a bad habit.
This realization is incredibly empowering. Coming to find that the metaphysical nature of a habit exists as nothing more than inertia gives us the ability to rewrite history and change our lives for the better. History is not an irreversible, concrete entity but something that humans mold and fix to our liking. Christopher Columbus has been reimagined from the brave founder of the New World to the catalyst of death and famine for Native Americans. Dinosaurs are changing from scaly, giant lizards to monster-sized chickens with human research and thought.
All this to say, habits are easy to change when you see them for what they are — past versions of yourself. The fatalist outlook on what has been is silenced when we decide that our history is forever being written and rewritten because we as people are continuously growing.
Whether it be biting your nails, scrolling your Twitter feed, or even enjoying that nightly alcoholic beverage, these actions can be minimized into minuscule components of your life’s story if you’re willing.
After reaching this passage, I was moved to start writing down people’s birthdays. Although I’ve struggled to remember birthdays in the past, that doesn’t mean it is beyond my capabilities to wish every friend and family member a happy birthday this 2022. As Kundera reminds us, the first step is recognizing that many of the bad habits we possess are nothing more than irrationality strengthened with the passing of time and that all we need to do to end a bad habit is stop it in its tracks.
Have an awesome week!
❤️ My Weekly Favorites
- 📽️ 15 Books to Read in 2022
- I added many books from this Ali Abdaal list to my Good Reads.
- 🎙️ Should I Follow My Skill or My Passion?
- Demetri introduced me to this podcast recently, and I am already hooked to Cal’s pragmatism. “
✍️ Quote of the Week
“Everything you do, be it great or small, is but one-eighth of the problem whereas to keep one’s state undisturbed even if thereby should one fail to accomplish the task, is the other seven-eighths” - Sixth-century Christian monk
📽️ This Week's Videos
🎙️ This Week's Podcasts
- It’s Okay To Be Unsure - Productive Brew 3
- Bad Habits are Bad Momentum - Productive Brew 4
- 80 - Perception is Everything