When I was 19, I read this quote by Aristotle:
“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Probably not the first time you’ve heard it, I know. But I remember the moment I read this, when it was the first time I’d heard it. Before it became popular on Pinterest and The Berry, it was one of the daily quotes in my Stephen Covey planner. I immediately wrote the words on a sticky note and put it by my front door, so I would see it every day before I left my first little apartment. It just clicked in my head, and I realized, “Wow, I have control over the choices I make and the habits I form.”
Seems kind of obvious, right? But as I was finishing teaching my yoga class this morning, mopping the studio floor for probably the 1,000th time, changing laundry, tidying up the front desk, I realized how bad some of my habits have gotten. Even the masseuse on Monday talked about habits we have with our bodies, the habitual bad postures, crossing of legs, slouching, the typist-perch in front of the computer. All of these bad habits become…well, you.
I do have bad posture; I slump over and cross my legs way too much at my desk, when I preach good posture every week at the yoga studio. That habitual glass of wine may not be the best idea, if I am trying to be healthier and more hydrated. Maybe eating processed carbs for breakfast 3/5 days of the workweek isn’t a great idea if I’m going for a leaner physique, even if it is a “healthy” wrap from Starbucks with a side of green tea. If I feel tired a lot, perhaps getting back to my habitual 10:00 PM bedtime during the week will help me feel more rested. These are all small things that I have control of, that I can make better habits out of and make a big impact in how I feel day in and day out.
I’m not being hard on myself. But as I said this morning to my yoga students (because I find myself always saying things that I really need to be listening to myself in that moment), becoming aware of ourselves — how we carry ourselves, our mindset, our attitude, the choices we make every day, our reaction to things — it’s all in our control. Even simply bringing our attention to the behavior is a great first step to shifting into a better, more positive space, whatever that means for the habits we’re trying to change.
So this morning I was really craving an everything bagel with jalapeno cream cheese from Greenfield’s (be still my heart). Instead, I decided to wait until I got to work, and made myself some oatmeal. Not only did I save a few $$, but it’s a healthier start to my day, and I’m still satisfied. Breakfast is a simple habit for me to change, and sets a great tone for the rest of the day. Much like the fact that I try to make my bed every morning and keep my apartment in order. It’s a first step to good choices for the rest of my Wednesday.
I wrote Aristotle’s words on another sticky note this morning and stuck it to my computer monitor at work. I just glanced at it again, uncrossed my legs, took a big swig of water, and sat up taller.