Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Personal Strength

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle, Greek philosopher (B.C. 384-322)

In other words, the cliché “practice makes perfect” applies here. I prefer Aristotle's way of saying it, because he explains why.Being who we are is about our actions, which are often the result of behavior patterns that are ingrained through repetition.

This truth, written over 2,000 years ago, is completely consistent with modern brain science. According to neuroscientists, habits and behavior patterns are enabled by brain cells that are physically connected to each other in a network they call a neural pathway. We aren’t born with this efficient hard-wiring. The brain is stimulated to grow the pathway by repeating the behavior over and over. We learn skills—another type of behavior pattern—the same way. So we can learn bad habits as well as good habits. Addictions as well as character strengths. We are what we repeatedly do.

The good news for people pursuing a learning journey—you can grow stronger by simply doing the right things, which may seem hard now, but which will become easier the more you do them.

Do what, then? Work on which patterns, then? During the coming year, I will have a lot more to say about dozens of specific behavior patterns that I call personal strengths.


Patrick @ said...

Denny, I totally agree. You can not only train your brain to form habits, you can also train to unlearn them.

And you can teach your brain to have fun doing so.

Looking forward to you behavior patterns.

Sean said...

"A person at his peak. We are not born perfect. Every day we develop in our personality and in our profession until we reach the highest point of our completed being, to the full round of our accomplishments and our excellences. This is known by the purity of our taste, the clearness of our thought, the maturity of our judgment, and the firmness of our will. Some never arrive at being complete -- something is always lacking. Others ripen late. The complete person -- wise in speech, prudent in act -- is admitted to the familiar intimacy of discreet people and is even sought out by them."

--Balthasar Gracian, 1647.