I have a bad habit. I rub my eyes. I’ve done it since I was a child, and it’s really not good. It all started because of hay fever and seasonal allergies that I usually suffer from even today. It makes my eyes itch terribly and I simply had to rub them.
Over the years, it developed from something I do to manage my allergies into something comfortable to do it when I’m tired or haven’t had enough sleep. Recently, I started having some problems with my sight, and I spoke to a specialist who reckoned my years of violent rubbing may have contributed to my problems.
Naturally, this got me thinking about bad habits. Many of us have one or two, and we’re not proud of them. The problem is we’ve been doing them for so long that we’ve lost the ability to control them. They are now a part of us, and it will take a miracle to stop doing them.
It also made me think of a story about an old man who caught his grandson smoking. He took the boy out into the garden and pointed to a little weed growing in the grass. “Pull that out”, he instructed.
The boy grabbed the little plant between his thumb and forefinger and pulled it easily out of the ground.
The old man then pointed at a bush growing on the edge of the lawn. “Pull that out”, he said to his teenage grandson.
The boy grabbed the shrub with both hands and tugged hard, several times, until it came out of the hard ground, trailing sods of earth in its roots.
Then the old man pointed to the old mango tree at the bottom of the garden. “Pull that out”, he said quietly.
The teenager shook his head and said, “Grandpa, there’s no way I could ever pull that out”
His grandfather put an arm around him and said, “This is how habits are. When you tackle hem early, it’s like pulling out a weed, but the longer you leave them, the harder they become to uproot, until, like the mango tree, they grow strong roots, and become impossible to pull out on your own”.
Today’s message is not just for you, but for your children – whether you have any now, or plan to in the future. Bad habits are so much easier to stop, the earlier they are tackled. The problem with kids is that they can make bad habits look cute. Do not be fooled. Set them straight while you can, before their little weeds grow into a mango tree.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I am the sum total of all the things I do and say.