John Dewey Habits and Will

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Would Dewey’s advice for correcting a bad habit work for you? How would you go about reforming one of your habits?

According to John Dewey, Habits are inevitable. We are empowered by both good and bad habits. In his essay, “Habits and Will”, Dewey states that we envision bad habits as such acts of “foolish idling, gambling, addiction to liquor and drugs”, and we associate good habits with skills such as walking, playing a musical instrument, and typing. We see bad habits as desires and good habits as abilities that “exist far from our impulsive desires”. Bad habits are not deliberately formed and are also hard to break. Dewey explains that will power alone is not enough; one must follow a specific method to turn habits around. I feel that I, someone who tends to get distracted easily and procrastinate, should benefit from Dewey’s habit-breaking method.

Dewey writes that a friend of his remarked that there was a superstition among persons that believe that if one is told what to do, if the right end is pointed to them, all that is required in order to bring about the right act is will or wish on the part of the one who is to act. According to them, if a man who slouches is told to stand up straight, all that is needed is an effort by him, and the problem is fixed. Dewey’s main argument in his essay is that this method does not work. Instead, he suggests that in order to fix or undo our bad habits we must replace them with another habit that is of goodness; you must have more than solely will power to defy a habit.

I think that I can benefit from Dewey’s method and start a new habit to break my habit of procrastinating. Every day, I feel that I am easily and frequently distracted when doing schoolwork, which causes me to procrastinate. Every day, I try to break this habit and am unsuccessful. Sitting and thinking “don’t get distracted” does not work because in doing so, I get distracted by thinking about not getting distracted, instead of actually working....
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