Friday, April 13, 2012

We Are What we Repeatedly Do

You’ve heard the axiom before, I’m sure:

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

Another one I really like says:

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action; reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character reap a destiny.”

If these two quotes tell us that we are the sum of our daily habits, then surely our habits are important. Everything from brushing our teeth and a morning cup of java, to internal criticism of a colleague or watching TV every night after work, surely must matter.

Thanks to inspiration from a friend, my wife and I have undertaken a 100 Day Burpee Challenge. First, for those of you who don’t know, a burpee is a physical exercise where you start in a standing position, squat down and thrust your legs back and do a push-up, pull your legs back into a squat and then jump into the air. That’s one. The 100 Day Burpee Challenge inspires participants to do one burpee on day one, two burpees on day two, three burpees on day three, and so on, until you reach 100. And of course, there’s a catch; if on say day 75 you neglect to do your burpees, on day 76 you are expected to do 75 burpees from the day before and 76 for your current day.

Our Burpee Challenge systematizes a daily exercise habit. For 100 days, we are accountable to perform this exercise on a regular basis. And frankly, the benefits trickle down. I’ve noticed a difference in how I feel, and the level of energy I have. On nights when I go out with friends for a drink, I moderate my consumption actively, because I know that once I get home I’ll have some burpees to do.

Successful people will tell you that one of the things that contributes to their success, is the sum of the daily habits they have created for themselves. The legal thriller author, John Grisham, began his career as a writer by committing to write one page a day, before getting started on his legal work for the day. Eventually he produced a book and sell millions of novels around the world.

John Grisham is not the only one who purposefully bakes a habit into his daily routine. A recent study of CEOs revealed the following:

• Almost 80% wake up at 5:30 or earlier
• More than 70% exercise in the morning and only12% admitted to not exercising, regularly

Coincidence that the similarities are so high? Likely not.

So if we should develop habits to improve our lives, what areas should we focus on? I’ve come up with a few:

1. Exercise – Our bodies are the temples for our spirit. When it feels good, so do we. Develop a HABIT of taking care of it.
2. Mentally – In today’s fast moving world, if you’re not moving forward you’re falling behind. Learn something new everyday.
3. Spiritually – At least once a day find something in your life that your thankful for and genuinely give appreciation for it as though you will lose it tomorrow.

Our daily habits define us and our lives and affect those around us. If we don’t actively and mindfully manage them we risk falling short of our potential and achieving our goals in life.

What are some the regular habits in your life that improve the quality of life? What are some of the ones that might inhibit a better life?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The circle of futility – and wear your undershirt

I was recently having a conversation with a friend who’s engaged. He’s super excited, but his wife is stressed and feels out of control. He explained that her biggest fear is letting others down and people having a critique about what she’s done.

The conversation evolved as we agreed that you CAN’T worry about others’ opinions, especially on your wedding day. I shared an example of times where I had tried to please others and how it created a circle of futility. One day I was in the office of the CPA firm I was with at the time and was talking with an older manger. As he took stock of my attire he felt compelled to opine; “You’re wearing a crew neck undershirt!” he blurted out. “What the hell’s the matter with you? They look terrible. I can see it you know? Why don’t you wear a V-neck?” he went on. I didn’t know how to react. I had just been jolted by a verbal stun gun. And, I had just always worn crew neck undershirts. I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Heeding the comments of the older and supposedly wiser manager, I switched to V-neck shirts. I felt proud of my new style change. I was a modern man in my young 20’s! That was…until a few months later. My brother spied me one evening and caught sight of my undergarment. “What is that?!” he questioned. “You’re wearing a V-neck? Ha. Why would you do THAT?” he continued as he grimaced. “Oh no!” I thought. “I’m letting down my own brother!”

Before that incident if you had asked me if undershirts would one day serve as a vehicle for a powerful life lesson I would have said “no.” I would have been wrong. This experience taught me, in no on uncertain terms, that it really doesn’t matter what you do. Someone will be able to find fault with it and critique it. You have a choice of going through life as a ping pong for other people’s opinions, or you can take a stand, embrace who YOU are, and DAMN THE NAYSAYERS. Clearly half of them have it wrong anyway! Today I continue to stick with my V-necks (I find them more comfortable) and don’t care what people in the crew neck camp have to say about it. Meanwhile, my friend’s fiancĂ© needs to pick an undershirt, and embrace it.

Taking my undershirt life lesson leads to my next thought which has to do with Burpees. But for now, I’ll let you try these thoughts on for size.
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