The Excellence Habit
By: David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

So many times in my life I have tried to break bad a habit. In fact, I think I am always trying to break at least one bad habit.  It is almost as if bad habits are self-sustaining. Somehow they take on a life of their own and almost reproduce! Often we act or respond in a particular way without even thinking. It just happens. Well, that is not exactly what happened. In the beginning, we knew what we were doing and over time it became a habit.

Please allow me to use an example we can all relate to. How did it feel the first time you drove a car? It was exciting and difficult all at the same time. You were so focused on what was happening. Check the mirrors, check the speed, check cars approaching from cross streets and oh yes, keep your eyes in front. Don’t push the breaks too hard. Don’t forget to use your turn signal. Wait, not too soon but soon enough. The list went on and on. Compare that with your last drive to work. Can you remember the trip? My guess is that you do not remember much of it. Many mornings I do not recall much about my drive to work. What changed? Are the cars and the roadways easier to use? Is there less traffic? Not at all. We simply have done it so long that it has become a habit and we are barely conscious of our tasks when we are behind the wheel. Now that is a scary thought!

What had actually happened is that neural pathways in our brain get established and the more we perform a certain task or activity, the more connections form between the corresponding neurons. As the links are strengthened our behavior becomes second nature to us. Amazing, isn’t it. What that means is that we can have good habits become as natural as bad habits by practicing them. We just have to be intentional about it. Aristotle said, “To be excellent, we cannot simply think or feel excellent, we must act excellently.” Aristotle was so right. We need to make it a practice of cultivating Excellence Habits; those habits that over time will bring out the excellence that is buried deep inside all of us.

Next week we will look into tips for implementing them. What Excellence Habits will you be cultivating?