“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Forever, I have thought Aristotle said this. It was on the back of one of my sister’s track t-shirts, with Aristotle credited. It’s something we’ve referenced several times in my family. It’s a quotation I’ve used as motivation and inspiration and like a little gold star in my mind because I had an Aristotle quotation memorized.
Turns out, what Aristotle actually said, is this:
“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.”
A more contemporary philosopher distilled that and other ideas Aristotle wrote down to the quotation I’ve been using for years. But fortunately for me, the original idea fits even better with what I want to talk about today.
Spring is made up of a lot of lovely things, not just one bird or one fine day. Motherhood is made up of a lot of things, not just giving birth or changing diapers or carpool. A person is made up of a lot of things– namely, habits.
I’ve sort of been on two journeys for the past few months and as I’ve been looking back, I’ve seen how they have merged and changed my life for the better. The first is my faith experiment and the second are my New Year’s resolutions. Through both, I’ve formed some new habits and I thought I’d share them for anyone else is looking to recharge this spring.
Back in October, I deleted Twitter off my phone. This started out as a 10 day social media fast. Instagram is a key component of my blog so I didn’t see how I could just shut it off, though I did try to be on it less and not waste time tapping that magnifying glass. But I could sacrifice Twitter. I used it all the time, during any free or bored moment, so it really would be difficult to give up. But even after just 10 days without it, I felt so much lighter and more optimistic and hopeful about the world. I would get a lot of my news from Twitter and while it’s necessary to be informed, it isn’t necessary to have information constantly weighing you down and occupying your thoughts.
And now, I honestly don’t know how I had time for it! It doesn’t feel like there’s this empty space, which is probably because that time was filled up so quickly with more productive and fulfilling things. Maybe Twitter isn’t a negative app for you so I would suggest taking a look at your phone and seeing what is occupying space and time that could be used more productively.
This has probably had the most positive impact of all the changes. It was a key part of my faith experiment and now it’s a key part of my parenting, mood, and general well-being. Before I can check Instagram or the news or even the weather, I try to read scriptures. They are inspirational, instructive, and uplifting for me. So I get to start my day with my husband and kids with my eyes hopeful and heavenward. And then to close the day, after I put my kids to bed, I immediately do a deeper scripture study.
If I get right into Netflix or hanging out with Matthew or working on my blog, it’s much harder for me to extricate myself to make time for scripture study so blocking out this time has helped me stay diligent and keep peace in my mind and heart. That’s been a really important lesson- you have to set yourself up for success and picking a manageable time to consistently do something good for your spirit will keep that effort going.
So before you dive into work or social media or even text messages, take time to ease your mind into the day and inspire yourself.
Finally, a truly simple change! I had this idea a while ago, to put a “heart emoji” next to my husband’s name in my phone. I know lots of people do this already, but I’ve been surprised how it’s affected me each time he calls. It’s like this little reminder of the high place he should and does have in my life. Then I thought how that might also be effective if there’s someone in your life who you regret losing touch with or with whom you have a damaged relationship. Putting a heart next to their name could be a good first step to softening real hearts.
Another change that sounds simple more than it actually is. This has been, and continues to be, a long process but completely worth the effort. I have anxiety and when I feel it rising, my voice goes up with it. Anger became a sort of coping mechanism for when I felt out of control, but it’s an empty and corrosive substitute. And it never makes you feel better.
So I made a commitment to myself that I would do my best to never yell at my kids. And having that goal in the back of my mind during any difficult interaction has helped me immensely. It’s really hard to maintain and sometimes my words are soft but unkind so I still have a lot of work to do. But keeping my voice in control has helped me to stay calmer and keep a more positive energy in our home.
For the longest time, only my family and complete strangers knew about The Curated Kids. I found an enduring passion but was too scared to tell people about it. I didn’t think all this girly and personal content would match with how I thought I came off to people in real life. But then I was hiding something I was proud of, something that was becoming a bigger and more important part of my life. So here’s been my simple change: being honest.
I’ve stopped apologizing for liking girly things and putting lists together and being myself. Letting people I see regularly at church and playdates know about this has been scary but also really good for me because I get to take ownership of this thing I love so much. So one way you could implement this in your own life is to lean into what your passion is and make no apologies for it, especially not to yourself. Your passions are what keep you motivated and excited about life and nurturing them is its own reward.
Originally, I wanted to share these changes because I had seen my life sort of going on an upward trajectory. I had seen a positive effect after investing more in myself. I had learned that focusing on real happiness rather than temporary pleasures was work but good, necessary work. Then, this last month happened and challenges seemed to be racking up. Not the least of which was my grandma passing away. I haven’t been able to be as diligent or intense or involved. But I have been able to hold on to them. And I imagine that if I hadn’t been trying so hard before this past difficult month, well, it would have been a lot worse. We are what we repeatedly do, even when we feel like we can’t do it anymore. Spring is made up of lots of lovely things and I can’t wait to discover them.