“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I’ve always been fascinated by the human condition. Our capacity is unfathomable. Consider for a moment what we have accomplished over the past 1000 years. Science has given us a much better understanding of the world we live in, while technology has made our lives easier. We have 24/7 access to clean, safe drinking water, nearly an unlimited amount of food, and flush toilets. We have developed some of the most fair and equitable socio-economic systems ever witnessed in human history. Our understanding of health and medicine enables us to save lives otherwise lost to accidents and disease. Every child in every modern society has access to a decent education. For crying out loud, we put a man on the moon!
With all of this aforementioned success, with all of the collective knowledge we have attained as a species, we still struggle as individuals. How can there be such disparity in the human experience? Why can so many individuals living in the same time and place experience such varying levels of success?
Did you notice the attribution to the quote above? Most of us have heard it before, but it has been attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC). He didn’t write it. An American philosopher named William Durant did in his book The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers (1926). He wrote it as a summation of Aristotle’s work Nicomachean Ethics.
Nothing against Mr. Durant, but it sounds way cooler coming from Aristotle.
The fact is knowledge has to be learned, and therefore it can be altered, filtered, ignored, or completely lost. Not only that, but our own minds, with the capacity to put a man on the moon, can be our worst enemy. We can even deceive ourselves into believing the absurd.
How does all of this play into our training as martial artists? Let’s go back to Aristotle, er, Durant. Quite simply, our habits can make or break our ability to succeed. All of the knowledge in the world is meaningless if we have poor habits.
One such habit is making excuses for why we can’t do what we know we should.
Ask anybody in the fitness industry and they will confirm this observation: people can create a long list of well thought-out excuses as justification for avoiding the very thing they know they should be doing. We know more about nutrition and exercise than ever before, and yet the U.S. is witnessing an epidemic of obesity and all of the health problems that come with it. All of the worldly expertise in nutrition and exercise can be neutralized with the simple declaration, “I can’t because <insert excuse du jour>.”
Take a moment to consider the monumental achievements of your human family. Realize that you, too, have the capacity for greatness. Identify your goals, and DON’T MAKE EXCUSES. Just get busy doing what you know you should.
See you on the mats!