Brain Food #547

We are what we do

Thoughts of the day

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

A quote that is often misattributed to Aristotle, although the words were actually written by Will Durant in his book The Story of Philosophy, where he tries to capture the messages of some of the world’s greatest minds in his own words.

What Aristotle had actually written was, “As it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy,” the first part of the sentence often being used nowadays in Greek, in a slightly more pessimistic context, to highlight that a one-off occasion, usually of something positive, does not signify a permanent change.

As we are still in the humble beginnings of 2021, where the general sentiment of the planet is to take it slow, today feels like a good opportunity to return to the notion of habits. We can reach our goals, which can often be banal on their own, by focusing on creating the daily behaviours that will lead us to where we want to be, or to who we want to become.

As long as we take it one day at a time.

Good habits can range from drinking more water and moving our bodies, to writing a line every day to track a small achievement, or contacting a friend every week to see how they are.

Countless influential figures relied on habits to ensure their days were spent well. Benjamin Franklin took the time to write a summary of his day, starting in the morning, with the question ‘What good shall I do this day?’ and ending in the evening with ‘What good have I done today?’

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