WE ARE WHAT WE REPEATEDLY DO. EXCELLENCE, THEN, IS NOT AN ACT, BUT A HABIT. ~ Aristotle
This is one of my favorite quotes. It does periodically get me to examine habits of all sorts. And excellence may not always mean that the habit is excellent, does it?
For example: I know whiners extraordinaire. I was in their ranks once and believe that through practicing silence and empathy a bit more, my whining is no longer excellent – it can still be considered good at times though, so I am working toward bringing that all the way down to poor.
I know gossipers extraordinaire also. Oh my, can they be energy drainers! I am not talking about the folks who pass along information on others. I am talking the ones who can’t do anything but spit out venom about others whether it is true or not. You get to hear every gritty detail, made-up or real, that you never wanted to know in the first place. Even as you are excusing yourself from their presence they are saying, “yeah, but….” These folks don’t seem to be able to help themselves. It is a shame this is a habit they have honed so well. I pray that they begin to practice compassion and love instead.
Or how about screamers? Some screamers can get a volume on to wake the dead. Yes, truly, the neighborhood heard you the first 20 times. Geesh – you all need to develop the habit of using your indoor voices. Okay, the indoor voice you should be using.
OOOOO my nemesis. The habit of nail biting. EEK I can take that to the heights of excellent destruction. I have made great strides but it still raises its ugly head from time to time. My nails will never be normal because of it.
It is much the same as other habits that are destructive to our bodies and to those around us – over eating, smoking, drinking to excess, promiscuity, etc. Somehow it isn’t just the addictive quality behind them, because there is that for sure. But the habit of the repetition and its feeling that fills whatever void seems to need filling is just as hard.
Are any of you in the habit of cursing the other drivers on the road? I am not talking about the guy who truly is driving nuts; they really deserve a groan or two. I usually say a prayer they get to where they are going safely without hurting anyone else (Uh, sometimes after a not so nice remark. I am working on it, okay? J ). But how about the one that is driving the speed limit instead of 10 miles over? Or the one who hasn’t turned left across moving traffic because she knows her car is not as fast as the Roadrunner and can’t possibly make it safely through that particular hole? Or the one who stops for the pedestrian in the crosswalk that might hold you up 25 seconds? Okay, I’ll raise my hand. I have been known to do this on a bad day. Years ago I spent my whole commute doing it. What a waste of energy! But I am pleased to say I have dropped this one from excellent down to slightly better than poor. I can now look at my own driving decisions and see how others may have had to make similar ones. That helps.
If we really look at this quote as I think it was intended, it actually means to strive for excellence in those things that bring Light and betterment to the world. That is a tall order. It means that each day we should strive for actively practicing the habits of gratitude, fun, love, compassion, honesty, humility, peace, understanding, quietude, joy, companionship, thoughtfulness, random acts of kindness, honor, integrity, moderation in all things, faith, hope – my the list gets long, doesn’t it? With so much to practice, there shouldn’t be any time to get good at bad habits.
How do we get to practice these habits of Light? First we have to set our intention to do what is right and good for the highest good of all. We ought to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. We need to ask for guidance from Spirit. We need to read and digest those texts that speak to our spiritual journey. We should establish the discipline of daily prayer and meditation in whatever form that takes. We must accept the fact that we are human and although we can excel at many things, sometimes we do excel at habits which aren’t always life affirming. In that acceptance, we need to understand that we are works in progress. When we fall, we get back up. When we err, we endeavor to right. When we hurt, we begin to heal.
Above all, we need to develop the excellent habit of being gentle with ourselves. Imagine developing that habit - just loving ourselves as the unique beings that we are, warts and all. Develop the habit of knowing we can develop new habits of Light and love; of knowing that each moment we can make a small change of direction into new life-affirming habits. Can you see not only how that would improve our own lives but also how that will ripple out to others?
Ahhh – we are what we repeatedly do. And what are you doing today?