Making Excellence a Habit

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Some people seem to be on top of the world. They’re the leaders of their fields, they’re always on top of things. It’s common to wonder just what their secret is. I’ve done it myself. How is it that they’re capable of doing so much when normal people like you or I find it so difficult to accomplish our own goals?

It can be pretty frustrating when you dwell on it.

I have some lovely friends who fall into this category of ‘excellent individuals’ so let me try to provide some insight.

First of all, know that the excellence you see isn’t all that they are. The people in the world who seem to have it all together are often battling demons of their own that you have no idea about. They’re just choosing to keep their own struggles private (as they have every right to do).

But still, they are doing something right. What could it be?

There’s a quote online that I’ve come across before. It’s been attributed to Aristotle but closer research shows that it may, in fact, be a quote from Will Durant. It goes like this: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

I first came across this quote years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. Excellence isn’t one single act but rather the result of many different sustained ones. Hearing this might be disheartening for those of us who aren’t creatures of habit. It wasn’t a very easy pill to swallow for me, considering how haphazard I can be at times.

But that’s the secret. Work and keep working because sustained momentum will always be more valuable than a single spurt of enthusiasm.

Easier said than done, though. How do you go about forming a habit?

Good question. Several very intelligent people have conducted studies into how habits are formed. A quick Google search will tell you that a habit can be formed in 21 days. A slightly closer look will amend that to 66 days and then even 254 days if the habit is a particularly difficult one.

So it can take anywhere from three weeks to almost three-quarters of a year to create a habit. It’s starting to sound like excellence is more effort than it’s worth!

I am not particularly excellent at anything but I will say that consciously trying to make certain things a habit has been incredibly useful for me. The only reason that I finished any one of my novels is because I consciously made writing a habit for myself.

I won’t lie and say that it was easy, or even that it was an entirely linear process. I had bad days and setbacks and even had to start over more than once. But I got there in the end and I definitely credit the majority of my productiveness to the habits I forced myself to create.

There are many different ways of creating a habit but I’ll share only two of my favourite ones with you. First, I had people to hold me accountable. When I was writing, I was posting my progress online and I had friends who’d nag me if I wasn’t writing consistently.

Technology holds me accountable as well. Now, it is possible to do this with just a pen and paper but I find an app much more efficient and easy for me to keep track of (I don’t tend to lose my phone the way I might misplace a piece of paper). I use the app ‘Loop – Habit Tracker’ which is available on the Google Play Store. It’s easily accessible from its place on my phone’s home screen and it’s a nice way to keep yourself accountable without relying on anyone else to keep you on track.

It’s very easy to use. You input the habit you’d like to create and whenever you open it, it shows you a list of habits you’re trying to form as well as your progress. To update it, you just put a check down for every day that you’ve kept to the habit and it allows you to easily track your progress.

Habits, like most other things, start with a single action. Are you ready to start making excellence your newest habit?

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  • Aisha Idris

    Jazakillah khair. Such a good topic. Very beneficial. Recently I am trying to form a habit to sleep early and wake up for tahajjud and also to make exercise a daily routine of my life. I am putting the app that you suggested on download right now.

  • Meenah Bee

    Asalamu Alaikum this is a wonderful article I am a young muslimah wife and mother living in a very small Islamic community and I am having trouble forming great habits and felt so alone not having anyone to share goals or motivation with until now this is my first time on this website and the first article I chose to read I think I’m going to really like this site <3

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