Acts, habits, character … Thomas à Kempis?

Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.

Attributed, I know not how, to Thomas à Kempis. It sounds nothing like him, and a quick Google search showed:

  • This is a truncated form of the saying, which goes like this:

    Watch your thoughts, they become words;
    watch your words, they become actions;
    watch your actions, they become habits;
    watch your habits, they become character;
    watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

  • It’s attributed to all sorts of people.
  • The Quote Investigator got there long before I did, and Thomas à Kempis is not among the sources he found.
  • The earliest attribution to Thomas à Kempis I can find is in the 2006 book Big Wisdom (Little Book) by Thomas Nelson.
  • The oldest place I can find the quotation on the same page as Thomas à Kempis’s name is from 1920 in the Confectioner’s Journal, vol. 46, p. 176, in a set of “Short Sayings by Great Men” on the topic of habits. Note that the saying isn’t attributed to him here (Thomas à Kempis did say, “Habit is overcome by habit“), but at least his name is on the page. I suspect that  Thomas Nelson, or his source, found a similar set of sayings and associated the wrong name with the fauxtation in question.