When we talk about "habits", we generally think of patterns, customs or practices.  Good or bad habits are the things we do over and over, often without thinking about them.

Sometimes we decide to change our bad habits. We think we will quite one thing and do another thing. We have a lot of confidence in our ability to act on what we decide.

But, anyone who has tried to break a bad habit knows that self-consciousness about it doesn't always result in the ability to stop doing it.  I remember as a child I chewed my finger-nails.  I tried everything to stop it: clear nail polish, slapping my hand, etc. Being conscious about it was not enough.

Because you see, a habit is not simply what we do. It is place we live.  The root of the word habit means "to dwell in" or to "dress".  In other words it is not simply something we do but it enfolds us, it is where we live or what we clothe ourselves with.

And this helps us see that habits are not simply about an individual decision at a particular moment in time, but they surround us and hold us.  The patterns we develop are not only places of comfort for us as individuals, but they are built into the social systems that hold us and the relationships we inhabit.

Alcoholics Anonymous understands this.  When a person tries to deal with alcoholism, they are encouraged to change their social habitat. They avoid places where people are doing that which they are trying to overcome. They find social groups to inhabit who propagate other values that they embrace.

It seems to me that one of the keys to making changes in our lives is to look at our habitat and see what changes we might want to make to the social systems that hold us.  If we change what we surround ourselves with, we might find it easier to develop new patterns of behavior.