"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit."
For Dr. O, a psych professor at my Alma Mater, this was practically a mantra. I had the pleasure of having what amounted to a wellness class with him only last semester, and he spoke those words at virtually every meeting. I've also seen it on a lot of blogs, so it certainly isn't fresh insight for me.
That's why I was surprised when it popped into my head at 4:45 this morning. I was awoken by the strops, purrs and drips of drool that I can expect when by 3 year old calico, Betty Lou, manages to get my bedroom door open. Typically, I give her the requisite attention, send her off and return to sleep, but this morning that quote was burned into my brain.
Maybe it resonated with me so well today because I had gone to bed feeling guilty. It wasn't so much that I had overeaten yesterday, but rather that I had eaten and overeaten when I didn't feel hungry. I was stressed out about work and personal relationships and there just happened to be cookies and light ice cream in the kitchen. I didn't binge, but I wasn't eating to relieve any physical hunger and that made me feel out of control and angry. As my head hit the pillow, I felt like a failure and I was sorely disappointed in myself.
But listening to the predawn rain with the warmth of a cat on my chest, I found new perspective. I buy into the idea that we are what we repeatedly do. On the most basic level, I had to repeatedly eat more calories than I burned to tip the scales at nearly 280 pounds. I wasn't "an over eater" the first time I stuffed myself at Thanksgiving. That became part of my identity as I continued to do it on a daily basis. By the same token, jogging around the block won't make me an athlete and showing compassion on one, isolated occasion won't make me a good person.
What matters is the sum of who we are and what we do. On this journey, I need to focus on pushing forward and I need to treat every day and every moment as a chance to shape who I am and who I will become. If, in the grand tally, I make healthy choices more often than less healthy ones, I will eventually achieve my goals. That's it. Cultivating excellence is as simple and as difficult as that.
Finding comfort in food and laying in front of the T.V. have been part of who I am for as long as I can remember. Changing the fabric of my being is bound to take some time, and I bet there will be some rips along the way.
O.K. The metaphors are getting thick and deep in here, so why don't you share your own perspective!