Swimming in Habits

Uintah, Utah


I live in the little town of Uintah, which is bordered on the south and west by the Weber River. A few years ago we experienced higher temperatures in the spring which resulted in a spring melt in the mountains, causing high run off to the rivers. Our little portion of the Weber River became a fast flowing, large river in a hurry. Several homes were threatened as flooding became a problem. One man explained to me that the river was trying to flow its old course that it had hollowed out many, many years before when the town had fewer homes. The memory of this event came to mind as I was reading in the book "The Power of Habit". It states that "water is the most apt analogy for how a habit works. Water hollows out for itself a channel, which grows broader and deeper; and after having ceased to flow, it resumes, when it flows again, the path traced by itself before." Like a river flows unconsciously the course that it has set for itself, so do we, as we mindlessly follow our habits that have been ingrained in our brains day after day. To help illustrate the unconsciousness of some of our habits the story is told of two young fish swimming along who happen to meet an older fish. The older fish says 'Morning boys. How's the water this fine day?' The "boys" do not answer and swim by with a mere glance at the older fish. After some time one of them looks over at the other and asks 'What the heck is water?'

Consciously or not, it is our habit of thinking and doing that creates the world each of us live and swim in everyday. It is habits that play a central role in our happiness and success in life. One such habit, that will add a greater measure of happiness to life, is that of service."People grow to the way in which they have been exercised, just as a sheet of paper, once creased or folded, tends to fall forever afterwards into the same identical folds." Exercise daily service to others and it will become part of who you are, out of habit.

I am reading in the Book of Mormon and have come to King Benjamin's address to his people. One of the first key elements to this powerful sermon is the teaching of the principle of service. King Benjamin points out to the people all that he has done to serve them. He recounts the many times he has served the people to show how integrated service is in his life. He does this, not to boast of his own goodness, but to be for an example to the people. To teach them of his deep respect and love for God the Father. It states in Mosiah 2:17 "behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." He then goes on to say that even after all he has done, he is still an unprofitable servant. Why? Because he could never repay God for lending him breath and preserving him all his life. But God isn't looking for us to repay him. All He asks of us is that we keep his commandments, and one of those commandments is to serve others.

I could further write on research studies, and further expound on readings both secular and spiritual that show the many benefits of a person giving a portion of their day to service. Instead I will simply close this post with my affirmation of the power of the habit of service. I have felt the joy that comes in serving another. It is real, it can change the world. Even if that world is simply the small river that you are currently swimming in. Cultivate the habit of service. It will bring blessings both here and now, and in the eternal life to come.

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