“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle. This quote was painted on the wall in the cafeteria of my high school growing up. At the time, I couldn’t appreciate how it truly describes all facets of life. Only after years of learning to be independent in college did the truth become apparent to me. Our everyday habits define us and our search for excellence and happiness.
We’re taught many things from the time we become teenagers to the time we reach our mid-twenties – everything from how to write eloquently, to how the economy functions, to how to program and build computers.
There aren’t any classes offered in college that teach you how to live your life. Presumably, we’ve been taught everything we need to know by the time we’ve ascended to higher education. As a result, most of us have to figure it out for ourselves when we finally leave the nest.
We have an endless amount of temptations in college. Alcohol, various drugs, sex, porn – it’s all easily accessible and we’re entirely responsible for ourselves.
It’s easy to latch on to what gives us what we perceive to be happiness. We’ve never had to figure out on our own how to manage all of our free time, so we spend it doing what feels right.
At some point reality comes back to all of us. These vices, though they seem to promise lasting happiness, never retain their value over time.
This is when the quote from Aristotle hits home.
Real happiness is the net sum of the values we live out rather than those we expect of ourselves. Therein lies the true wisdom of Aristotle’s words. Our actions define us; the habits we build are the secret to our own happiness.