“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I’m sure you’ve heard this quote (attributed both to Will Durant and Aristotle) a number of times, but have you ever really stopped to consider its meaning? Think about it for a moment.
Want to become “a runner,” but feel like you’re out of shape or don’t have what it takes?
Have you always dreamed of being “a writer,” but don’t think you have a story to tell?
If we take the wisdom of this quote to be gospel, all you need to do to become a runner is…run. Want to be a writer? Just write.
Sound easier said than done? Maybe so. But I think this advice is some of the best motivation out there, because it’s approachable by those of us who haven’t even started down a path toward our goal. Remember, even if you’ve never jogged a mile in your life, all you have to do is start.
At the beginning of April, I set a goal for myself. I hoped to complete ten running workouts during the month. I didn’t specify when they needed to occur, or whether they should be indoors or out. The only requirement was I run for at least thirty minutes each time.
To some of you, that might not seem like very much. To a younger version of myself, it certainly wouldn’t. But I do other sorts of exercise on other days, and I refuse to count that towards my running goal. I also work full time and have this website to maintain and am married with a household to co-manage. On top of all that, I haven’t run regularly since perhaps 2011. I don’t mean to make excuses, but this is my reality at this particular moment in time.
I knew my goal would be difficult to achieve because I tend to let my goals fall by the wayside when faced with other more pressing or more intriguing projects and opportunities. April also played host to both my birthday and Easter, two of my favorite days, and two days around which there is always a plethora of food. Eating a great deal always throws me off track for the better part of a week, both with diet and exercise. That’s something I’m trying to work on, but, again, that’s how it is for me in this particular moment in time.
To make a long story short, it got to be April 23, and I had only run three and a half times (the half because I showed up on the fourth day, but my body did not, and I stopped halfway through because I felt like I might faint). Oh well, I thought. I’ll do what I can, but I won’t be able to meet my goal.
Then it hit me. Why not? There were seven days left in April. If I increased some of my workouts to 45 minutes at once, I could easily fit in the total amount of time (three hundred minutes) that I had been aiming for. The thought that, for once, I could push my way through to the finish line on a self-imposed, otherwise arbitrary goal was exhilarating. So I decided to do it.
Every time I was tired or wanted to quit partway through a workout, the quote popped into my head. “We are what we repeatedly do.” I wanted to be a runner once again. So I ran.
I ran on April 23, and again on April 24. I gave myself a break the next day, but ran again on April 26 and 27. It was at about that point when I realized I was going to do it. My excitement grew. It may seem stupid to you (and it does to me, too, a bit as I write this), but re-learning that you CAN achieve something that you want to is a really wonderful, empowering thing.
I ran on Saturday and Sunday, completing my three hundred minutes. By the end of my workout yesterday, I’ll be honest, I was pretty into myself. And I’m going to channel that energy into a new goal of twelve runs for May. Because why not? It’s good for me, and I CAN DO IT.
I would encourage you to apply this philosophy to every aspect of your life. Whatever it is that you want to do but have been too afraid, busy, or exhausted to start—think about why you want it. How badly you want it. If you REALLY want it, even if you don’t know why—find a way to make it happen. You owe it to yourself to follow your inner voice. If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried. But motivation tends to have a snowball effect. I’d be willing to bet once you convince yourself to try, you’ll be encouraged to keep going. To quote another great man (Yoda), “Do or do not, there is no try.” :-)