“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Those immortal words were uttered by Aristotle some 2300 years ago and their truthfulness is as self-evident today as when originally spoken.
Results in our lives come from those things that we do over and over again, and those behaviors that have become ritualized within us and have sculpted us into who we are.
So, who are we?
We are the product of repetition.
At least that’s what my brand-new friend Jerry explained to me when he and I met for the first time several weeks ago.
I had met Jerry through a long-time friend of mine who felt we had a lot in common. And so Jerry and I met for coffee at a local restaurant and spent a little time chatting and a lot of time laughing.
Like so many of the people I have written about in recent months, Jerry has overcome mountain sized obstacles in his life and when we met and I asked his permission to write about him he said his story was not important and that he was reluctant to even share with me the details of the remarkable changes he had made in his life.
Instead he wanted to share with me his thoughts regarding a specific topic; habits.
He told me that several years ago he’d had an epiphanous moment. Sitting alone in his darkened living room reflecting, with an overwhelming sense of sadness, on all of those things that were bringing unhappiness into his life, he realized that the very things that he did day after day after day in his life were the cause of where he was at that moment.
He further realized that if he wanted any hope of anything becoming different in his life he would need to start doing different things every day, day after day, until he arrived where he wanted to be and beyond.
He went on to say that he realized in that moment that he could write a detailed list of all of the things he knew to do differently and he could, with dogged determination do all of those things the next day but that would be meaningless.
Those things on his list would need to become the things that he did not just the next day, but every day.
They had to be transitioned from activities to habits.
In other words Jerry, in that moment of enlightenment, realized that we are not just creatures of habit, we are the product of all the things we do over and over again and that if we want things to be radically and massively different in our lives we need to develop radical and massive new habits.
And that’s what he did and he shared with me some of his new habits.
One of Jerry’s habits is to take time for himself each day to meditate and to affirm great and empowering statements to himself about himself.
Jerry has become a man of faith and so he has made it important in his life to develop the habit of daily prayer.
He has made healthy living one of his new habits. He wouldn’t talk much about the state of his physical health prior to his epiphany other than to say that he no longer requires any medication and that he wears much smaller clothes.
Jerry examined every area of his life – every area – looking for habits that were not producing the results he wanted and replacing them with new ones that would.
A massive and daunting undertaking.
Jerry has no idea how long it takes to form new habits. He told me that he is he is amused by the experts who tell us that it takes 21 days to form new habits. He is said that from personal experience he knows only that it takes as long as it takes.
He told me something interesting that is, I think, the key learning in all of this. He said acquiring habits is difficult and painful. He said that the reason “old habits die hard” is because we are so good at them. We have become extremely good at continuing our really bad habits through years of practice and so he had to constantly force himself and remind himself and cajole himself and motivate himself and push himself to keep doing (and, in some cases, not doing) those things that would ultimately become habitual but all of that, all that struggle, was made easy when he put in perspective one simple fact; had he not made those changes – had he retained his old habits – nothing in his life would ever change and the misery of his life would continue.
He explained to me that the price of change – the price of acquiring habits – is so easy when you understand and realize that not acquiring the habits that will get you the results you want will guarantee that you will continue to live your life day after day after day continuing to get the results you don’t want.
Jerry says it’s a really easy choice to make.
What do you think? Is it time for you to do what Jerry did – throw out some old habits and create new ones?
Please let me know and I’ll share with you more of Jerry’s story.
Till we read again.
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