Aristotle wrote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
This means a lot to me because it is a reminder that I don’t just become an excellent person by birth or by wishing so. Instead, I become excellent by practicing excellence.
One of the ways I do this is to keep track of actual data, rather than relying on my memory. For example, some people will say “Oh, I don’t watch tv or Netflix that much.” Instead I would track how much TV I actually watched.
It is easy to say I don’t spend that much time on social media. So, instead of saying that, look at the real data of how much time you spend on social media.
I think I need to do this because of the very strong psychological tendency to be in denial about our lives. It is part of the human condition. Journaling is good for this too. Sometimes I write in my journal, but almost every day I keep track of data so that I don’t fool myself.
Right now, I am keeping track of how much I exercise, calories (because my doctor wants me to lose lots of weight) books read and how many concerts I go to. In fact, I even keep lists of what songs were played on any particular night.
Of course, like so many other things, keeping data can become neurotic. Nevertheless I recommend it as a way of living the examined life so that excellence becomes a habit.
I came across this saying, “Everything in your life reflects a choice you once made. If you want different results, make different choices.”
Excellence, then is a choice. Will you choose to be excellent? I hope so! So…how to get there? Be honest with yourself. Live an examined life. Keep track of data if that helps. But more than anything, develop habits that foster growth. The habits we fall into become our traits. These traits become a part of our character, which, in turn, become a part of our choices.
I want more peace in my life. How do I find that? By making peaceful choices as often as I remember, I can verify for myself that it leads to a more peaceful life. Emerson wrote: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
That, too, is a choice.