“Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit.
You are what you repeatedly do.”
You are what you repeatedly do.”
These words spoken by the basketball great Shaquille O'Neal, is a paraphrase of a much older quote by the Greek philosopher Aristotle himself, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” In reading this, I had to stop and think about what kind of statement I send by my habits, the things that I repeatedly do in my everyday life...and whether or not it accomplishes the excellence I desire to exhibit.
I could start with the rather mundane repetitions of my life. I shower every day which could say that I am considerate of others by keeping myself clean, or that I'm somewhat vain because I don't want to appear dirty or smelly. I eat the same old things everyday, which could shout that I don't really care about food except for sustenance (no, I'm most definitely not a foodie!), or it could say that I'm just not very imaginative about my food choices. I care for my husband, my children, extended family and friends - would this be honorable perseverance and service or self-serving? It is true that I need those souls around me and by caring for them, I attempt to foster care from them for myself. Frankly, I'm not sure these are anything for which I could claim excellence.
More than the mundane daily tasks, I think Mr. O'Neal was referring to excellence in concrete tasks, such as practicing enough to make that basketball 'swoosh' the basket smoothly and cleanly every time. However, I suspect that Aristotle was probably more focused on our moral fiber and our efforts to live with others that would speak to whether or not we are building a good reputation by striving for excellence. I believe there are things that can be done habitually when dealing with others that most definitely lead to a reputation of excellence.
Be Available and Willing
To have a friend we must be a friend and that means being available and approachable; open to help, listen and share experiences with others, willing to share ourselves in the process. Also willing to do the hard things, the unpopular things, the mundane things to be of service to others - great rewards of character await those that are willing servants.
Look for Opportunities
Opportunities to be of service to others present themselves all the time, if we are watching for them. Opening the door for the disabled or elderly, available to direct the lost or giving a smile to someone who may need a lifeline takes so little effort. It is a mindset, an honor, to serve others when they least expect it.
Loving others is simple - care about them. Care about their feelings, their hurts and their joys. But it isn't enough to just care in silence; words can be so healing and necessary to those emotionally bleeding, and giving sincere encouragement to someone carrying a heavy load can enable them to continue to persevere.
Adopting an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude for that which has been placed in our lives is good and right. Everyone has an inner beauty that can be appreciated, and everyone appreciates appreciation. It is so beneficial to take the time to give thanks to the Creator for a new day, the glorious creation all around us and for the beautiful souls He has purposed to cross our path.
Take a Stand
Injustice is hurtful and wrong, just as it is wrong to let it go unchecked. It is those of good moral character who are strong enough to stand for justice...for others or even for themselves. This trait may cost, but it is always worth the sacrifice to stand for justice and all that is right.
Seek knowledge and pray for wisdom. Study hard and apply with all diligence the wisdom that has been granted. Be honest with both ourselves and others, with love and graciousness, and we will earn the trust and respect of those around us.
Pride and arrogance earn no points when it comes to good character. Walking humbly among our neighbors and with G-d, submitting ourselves to each other and to their needs, demonstrates a servant's heart.
In pondering these things, I have to ask myself; do I do these things repeatedly, and further, can others depend on me to consistently exhibit these traits truthfully and sincerely? A worthy goal to be sure; unfortunately it is true that we can all be guilty of inaction due to pride or fear.
Everyone has the opportunity to do the right thing, to make others feel wanted and needed, to show compassion and care to those around us. Are we willing to put aside selfish motives, personal agendas and even mistakes to strive for excellence? For myself, it is only through creating and sustaining habits of righteousness can I even consider coming close to excellence. Honestly, I have a long way to go.
A person's reputation is what other people think of them;
their character is what they truly are.