Habits Shape Who We Are

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." --Aristotle

If the above quote is true, it would explain why excellence is somewhat rare. Habits, at least new ones, are not easy to form. I have many habits, some good, some not so good. I have a habit of leaving items sitting out when I'm done with them, which leads to clutter in my house. I have a habit of taking my medication right before bed, which is good for my health. I didn't consciously decide to form these habits; they became part of me without real effort on my part.

I find it easy to describe my current habits, and I could share with you the times when I failed miserably at building new habits. I could also probably describe how new habits are formed. What I have a very hard time doing is actually changing my current habits and creating new ones. Sometimes that seems like an impossibility to me. One example is that I want to build the habit of exercise, but every morning is a huge fight with myself to actually do it. Lately, my old habits have won out.

I know it can be done. Countless people have changed their lifestyles, formed better habits, and ditched old ones. These people are inspiring. These are the people Aristotle is talking about - people who achieve excellence. So how do I become one of them? How do you? (Feel free to insert your advice in the comments if you already are one of them!)

One thing I do have in my favor is perseverance. I may not exercise every day like I hope to, but I do work to form the habit every day. Even when I fail, effort is put into trying. I also have goals I'm working toward, which makes it clearer to me why I should follow through on creating new habits. I want to be healthy and enjoy the time I have on earth, therefore, I work every day to build the habit of exercising.

Eventually, I hope exercise (and many other habits I'm working on) becomes an unconscious habit; just one of those things I do every day. Until then, I persevere. So what do I think helps build habits? Two things:

1. Set goals you're passionate about and take steps toward them. (For example, you may not be passionate about folding your underwear, but you may be passionate about having a simple and organized home, which would help motivate you to fold your underwear.)

2. Persevere. We all have days when we forget or just don't want to build better habits. I have those days often. The secret is to try again and again until we get it right.

This post is in response to a personal development writing contest created by Jenny and Erin in their quest for understanding. Pop over there and submit your own entry for a chance at the $25 prize.

Related Posts:
What Motivates You?
When doing something new, don't give up!
Overcoming Procrastination


Jenny said...

Do you have anyone who you could meet to exercise with? The only way I am able to get up and go walking or running first thing in the morning is because I have a great friend that I do it with. Makes all the difference in the world.

Thank you so much for writing and submitting this post. I look forward to returning to your site and spending a bit more time looking around!

Jenny said...

PS. It truly took me about 60 days before I could say being out and walking by 4:45 a.m. was a habit as it felt so awfully early in the beginning. But after a summer of seeing every sunrise I feel blessed that I pushed through in the manner you refer to. :)

cassidy said...

One thing that I realized while I got in the habit of waking up at 5:40 to go to the gym is that all it takes is one day of saying "I'm too tired" to break my new habit. Because if I said that one morning it made it a lot easier to say it the next morning and the next.

Instead of asking myself, "Do I want to get up and go to the gym right now?" I said, "I have to go to the gym right now" because I knew it wouldn't happen all week if I continued to ask myself every morning. That's how I got in the habit.

Holli Jo said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, Jenny!

When the weather gets a little cooler, I will be able to go walking with my husband or with friends. That does make it easier and a lot more fun to exercise with others.

Cassidy: I'm impressed that you get up at 5:40 every day! I agree, it's definitely better to just know you have to go to the gym, rather than checking to see if you want to!