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Excellence is something that we have to demonstrate every waking moment of our lives, not something that is done once and then forgotten. Excellence is a way of life and is the operating system inside us which is coded through habits.
Stoics called excellence as Arete.
There is nothing more powerful and effective as a habit. Our repetition, routine, rituals and daily actions become our habits and eventually define our success and happiness.
Our habits make us survive, thrive and live ahead, even during hard times. Each repeated action we do becomes a habit, as we add fuel to the fire. The more we do it, the more it is reinforced.
Some of the most successful and happy people are early risers. Waking up early could be the best productivity hack of your life. One does the best work in the morning when the day has just started. There are no distractions, no phones or doorbells ringing and no commotion at home.
Studies show that early risers experience better emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Journaling provides clarity to the mind, provides space to reflect and records one’s thoughts, preparing us for the day.
Journaling is the essence of Stoicism, making one live life with awareness and reflection, instead of living reactively and accidentally.
The best form of relaxation of the mind can be done anywhere, through reading. Reading relaxes and nourishes the mind, giving it rich fodder to chew, as long as one goes into deep philosophy, history, or biographies of great people, and not the Twitter fights.
Practice reading daily, even if it is just fifteen minutes twice a day.
An outdoors walk lets us clear our minds and delve deep into the present moment while being connected with nature and the sunshine. Deep breathing and relaxed pondering while taking a walk is therapeutic.
Friedrich Nietzsche reportedly walked eight hours a day with a pencil and notebook in hand, as he believed that the ideas obtained while walking were gold. Other walkers include Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.
Actively caring for the welfare of others is an essential part of living, and cannot be ignored. Connecting and deeply loving our friends, kids, spouse, siblings, parents, coworkers and anyone we meet regularly makes life worth living. Love is everything there is in this world, the spiritual glue that connects everyone. We feel a rush of happiness when others are happy and cared for, and that is a priceless feeling.
Reach out to your long lost teachers and mentors, write some letters, connect with your parents living far away, and inject love in your life.
Epictetus said the right way to eat is in moderation, with restraint, justly and with self-control. Stoicism believes in being fighting fit, ready for anything.
Eating rightly and in moderation makes us healthy and reserves our physical and mental energies in other important areas of life. People who ‘poison themselves with spice’ and ‘drown themselves in sauce’ are not worthy to be with.
Every night, examine your day and actions, with self-awareness and self-reflection. According to stoicism, this is an essential activity when the day ends.
Observe, reflect, write, analyse, interrogate and take inventory of your words, actions and thoughts. This activity, if done rightly, makes you understand yourself, and that is the greatest achievement.
Habits are formed by doing something constantly and regularly. The more it is repeated, the more it gains strength.
Trigger, Action and Reward: The process of habit formation is through a neurological loop which starts with a cue, or a trigger(like the time of the day) followed by the habit (action) and lastly the reward or the dopamine hit which satisfies and paves the way to follow the cue next time. To form a habit, however big, one can start small and then work on it on a regular basis.
Bad habits, those you would want to go away, are best eliminated by replacing them with something else.
The only thing that can be replaced in a habit cycle of Trigger, Action and Rewards is the Action, which is always a choice. Replacing the action makes us trick ourselves into changing our habit. Just remember to replace the bad habit with a good one.
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