Excellence: Forming a New Habit

journal.jpgWe are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. -Aristotle

Now that we’re a few weeks into 2014, and most New Year’s Resolutions have gone by the wayside, I find myself stuck in a similar place. This place is a squalid little den called Lazy. I know I should be doing something, I know there are more productive ventures and avenues to explore, but too often those ideas never make it out of the den. But now that I’ve gone back to school seeking a Master’s degree in English and Creative Writing, I know that I need to get my happy-ass out of Lazy.

The question becomes, how do I do it? Well, that answer is an easy one to get to. Aristotle’s quote sums it up. So, too, does Shaquille O’Neal. He dubbed himself the Big Aristotle when after winning the NBA MVP award in 2000 he said:

“For all my friends in the media who like quotes, mark this quote down.  From this day on I’d like to be known as ‘The Big Aristotle’ because Aristotle once said, ‘Excellence is not a singular act; it’s a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.’” -Shaquille O’Neal

For the record, Shaq also wanted to be known as ‘The Big Shakespeare.’ He explained it by saying: “It was Shakespeare that said, ‘Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them.'”

Can’t argue with that (or Shaq). So, how am I going to do it? Well, there are a handful of psychology websites and advice columns littering the interwebs with a magic number for habit formation. 21, as in, 21 days. The number seems fairly arbitrary, and I can’t imagine different habits are formed over the same period of time.

Apparently, a study by the University College of London put the kabosh on that number when they came to the conclusion that it takes an average of 66 days to make an everyday behavior a new habit. And, the study found that different behaviors became habits at different paces. For example, drinking a glass of water after breakfast was a habit for the participants by day 20, but eating a piece of fruit with lunch took until day 40. The study found that exercise habits took longest to form, at an average of 84 days, and it extrapolated that some habits could take as long as 254 days to form.

So much for three weeks.

Like Aristotle and the Big Aristotle said, we are what we repeatedly do. So what am I? A lazy fuck who would plays Madden too much and doesn’t sit his ass down in a chair to write.

Maybe going to school again will change that. I’ve found myself at my desk more nights than not since the semester started, but I know this is going to take doggedness, deliberate practice, to get done. I have a lot on my plate these days, with work, coaching, school, wanting to lose weight, wanting to write more, wanting to read. People might say simplify my life, but I want to enjoy my life.

I want writing to become a habit, not a chore. Same can be said for school. People have told me for years I needed to go back to school and get a master’s in education. (I’m a teacher.) But I hated college years ago, and I knew if I went back to school for something like that that it’d become a chore very quickly. So I waited until I was ready, and chose something wanted. English and Creative Writing.

It’s all part of the same goal, to become a published writer. Now, it’s just a matter of making it me–making it what I repeatedly do.

2 thoughts on “Excellence: Forming a New Habit

  1. David,

    Best wishes in your creative writing. When you figure out the cure for lazy keep it away from my house. I don’t want my wife to figure out how to get me to work. Ha ha.


  2. love the quote!
    Life is what we make of it. We need to enjoy those moments that give us pure happiness and learn to get strength from those that give us sadness.
    Don’t give up!


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