John Mather Austin has written:
"Habits are formed insensibly. We are not aware of any moment when they are created; but the first consciousness of their being fixed upon us, is, when their great power is felt impelling us strongly to certain courses. A single deed does not create a habit. One thread of hemp forms not a rope. It contains but a very slight amount of strength. But when a large number of threads are laid and twisted together, they make the mighty cable, which, attached to the ship, enables lier to bid a proud defiance to the fierce gales and mountain billows of ocean. Thus the young are continually, yet unconsciously, spinning the threads of habit. Day by day the strands increase, and are twisted tighter together; until at length they become strong and unyielding cords, binding their possessor to customs and practices which fix his character and prospects for life.
It is of the greatest importance that the young should inquire faithfully into the nature of the habits they are forming. They should not fall into self-deception—a common error, on this subject. The love of indulgence should not be permitted to blind them to the legitimate consequences of careless habits.
In youth, habits are much easier formed and corrected, than at a later period of life. If they are right now, preserve, strengthen and mature them. If they are wrong—if they have any dangerous influence or tendency—correct them immediately.
Usually at the age of thirty years, the moral habits become fixed for life. New ones are seldom formed after that age; and quite as seldom are old ones abandoned. There are exceptions to this rule; but in general, it holds good. If the habits are depraved and vicious at that age, there is little hope of amendment. But if they are correct—if they are characterized by virtue, goodness, and sobriety—there is a flattering prospect of a prosperous and peaceful life.
Among the many pastimes to which the young resort for amusement, card-playing often fills a prominent place. This is a general, and in some circles, a fashionable practice; but it is objectionable and injurious in all its influences, and in every possible point of view. Nothing good or instructive, nothing elevating or commendable, in any sense, can come from it. All its fruits must necessarily be evil.
It is a senseless occupation. Nothing can be more unmeaning and fruitless, among all the employments to which a rational mind can devote its attention. It affords no useful exercise of the intellect—no food for profitable thought—no power to call into activity the higher and better capacities. It is true, I suppose, there is some degree of cunning and skill to be displayed in managing the cards. But what high intellectual, or moral capacity is brought into exercise by a game so trivial? It excludes interesting and instructive interchanges of sentiment; on topics of any degree of importance; and substitutes talk of a frivolous and meaningless character. To a spectator, the conversation of a card-table, is of the most uninteresting and childish description."
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg eBook, Golden Steps to Respectability, Usefulness and Happiness, by John Mather Austin)