It happens to me all the time. I plan on making a stop on my way to work or on my way home, but instead I find myself walking automatically to my final destination, my feet moving of their own accord. Unless I am super-conscious of the change of plan, my feet will just do their thing.

That’s because there’s a little autocrat in my head literally dictating to me what my next step should be. The autocrat’s name is Habit, and it can be my best friend or my worst enemy.

In Chapter 11 of The Principles of Education and Guidance, the Previous Rebbe quotes: “Over everything habit reigns supreme.” If you do something long enough, it becomes second nature; you almost feel compelled to act out of habit. It’s like your system operates on autopilot, and unless you consciously evaluate which habits are serving you and which are not, you are likely to continue being ruled by Habit.

There’s good news, too. The same way your brain gets wired to do a certain behavior, it can be rewired with proper planning and careful thought. It’s hard to fight an old habit, but it’s easy to create a new one, provided that it is nourished and encouraged while still novel.

As a mentor, you can help your mentees evaluate by asking:

Which habits are harmful? (Overeating? Gossiping?)

Which ones are helpful? (Set times for a Torah class? Organized home systems?)

Which ones are basically good but might be taken to the extreme? (Do you automatically start to clean to the point that guests and family become uncomfortable?)

Putting effort into establishing good habits ends up saving time and energy in the long run because when your defenses are low and you feel depleted, that little autocrat Habit takes over.

So make sure that you’re in good hands.

Self-Reflection: Are you helping your mentee reinforce good habits and replace negative ones with positive?