"Processionary caterpillars travel in long, undulating lines, one creature behind the other. Jean Hanri Fabre, the French entomologist, once lead a group of these caterpillars onto the rim of a large flowerpot so that the leader of the procession found himself nose to tail with the last caterpillar in the procession, forming a circle without end or beginning.
Through sheer force of habit and, of course, instinct, the ring of caterpillars circled the flowerpot for seven days and seven nights, until they died from exhaustion and starvation. An ample supply of food was close at hand and plainly visible, but it was outside the range of the circle, so the caterpillars continued along the beaten path.
People often behave in a similar way. Habit patterns and ways of thinking become deeply established, and it seems easier and more comforting to follow them than to cope with change, even when that change may represent freedom, achievement, and success.
If someone shouts, "Fire!" it is automatic to blindly follow the crowd, and many thousands have needlessly died because of it. How many stop to ask themselves: Is this really the best way out of here?
So many people "miss the boat" because it's easier and more comforting to follow - to follow without questioning the qualifications of the people just ahead - than to do some independent thinking and checking.
A hard thing for most people to fully understand is that people in such numbers can be so wrong, like the caterpillars going around and around the edge of the flowerpot, with life and food just a short distance away. If most people are living that way, it must be right, they think. But a little checking will reveal that throughout all recorded history the majority of mankind has an unbroken record of being wrong about most things, especially important things. For a time we thought the earth was flat and later we thought the sun, stars, and planets traveled around the Earth. Both ideas are now considered ridiculous, but at the time they were believed and defended by the vast majority of followers. In the hindsight of history we must have looked like those caterpillars blindly following the follower out of habit rather than stepping out of line to look for the truth.
It's difficult for people to come to the understanding that only a small minority of people ever really get the word about life, about living abundantly and successfully. Success in the important departments of life seldom comes naturally, no more naturally than success at anything - a musical instrument, sports, fly-fishing, tennis, golf, business, marriage, parenthood.
But for some reason most people wait passively for success to come to them - like the caterpillars going around in circles, waiting for sustenance, following nose to tail - living as other people are living in the unspoken, tacit assumption that other people know how to live successfully.
It's a good idea to step out of the line every once in a while and look around to see if the line is going where we want it to go. If it is not, it might be time for a new leader and a new direction.
For those who have tried repeatedly to break a habit of some kind, only to repeatedly fail, Mary Pickford said, "Falling is not failing, unless you fail to get up." Most people who finally win the battle over a habit they have wanted to change have done so only after repeated failures. And it's the same with most things.
The breaking of a long-time habit does seem like the end of the road at the time - the complete cessation of enjoyment. Suddenly dropping the habit so fills our minds with the desire for the old habitual way that, for a while, it seems there will no longer be any peace, any sort of enjoyment. But that's not true. New habits form in a surprisingly short time, and a whole new world opens up to us.
So, if you've been trying to start in a new direction, you might do well to remember the advice of Mary Pickford: breaking an old habit isn't the end of the road; it's just a bend in the road. And falling isn't failing, unless you don't get up."