I was reading the book The Power of Habit, and I came across this beautiful phrase :

Water is most apt analogy of how 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.

I could sense it means something lot more than I understand. Could someone of you elaborate this phrase more in context of habits.

  • 1
    Water flows where water has flowed before. In so doing, it makes it even more likely that future water will follow this same path. This is how rivers are formed.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


It means that once you have established a habit, it is significantly easier to to maintain or resume it than it is to change it. The water of habit hollows out a channel, like the formation of a river. And since water follows the path of least resistance, it is most likely to continue to use the existing channel than to try to form an entirely new channel. Thus when you have input (water) that triggers a response in you, it is most likely for it to flow down the same path that it has before, which is your established habit.

This is why it's very difficult to break old habits and form new ones, because you must force the "water" down a different path rather than the familiar channel it has always taken before. Establishing new habits takes time, just as water takes time to carve out a new channel.

Habit formation requires consistent commitment

Image showing the changing course of a river over time


And it also means that habits could start with only one single action, which could be like a first drop.

And it is also a metaphor, which could be understood in many ways. And each reader could find his own inner sense in it. Or empower such metaphor with his sense :)

So it is not about master command of English but individual understanding.

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