What Do You Practice?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

What do you practice?  If someone had asked me that before I’d started doing Nia, I would have said that I didn’t have a practice; that I didn’t practice anything.  A practice is something that one consciously chooses to do regularly, right?  Meditation or yoga or the piano.  I didn’t do anything like that.  “Having a practice” seemed like something for the deeply spiritual or the doggedly disciplined and exceptionally talented.  I certainly wasn’t any of those.

The truth is we all practice something.  Our practice is whatever we repeatedly do.  So the truthful answer would have been, “I practice worrying.  I practice arguing with myself.  I practice comparing myself to others.  I practice irritability and annoyance as well as cheerfulness and optimism.”  I still do practice those things sometimes.

“We are what we repeatedly do.”  I would only amend Aristotle’s quote by offering that whatever it is we create in our lives — whether it’s excellence, kindness, or acceptance, grumpiness, stinginess or nervousness — is what we practice.

So ask yourself:  what is your practice?  What is it that you repeatedly do?  Can you find evidence that what you repeatedly do is a habit and that, at least in some respects, it is who you are.

And then the follow-up question:  is that what you want to practice?  Is that the habit you want to cultivate?  Is it what you want to become?

As we get older, habits can get more and more deeply entrained.  So choose wisely.  The things that you “repeatedly do” get deep down in.  And habits can be broken.  Brave people stop drinking and smoking.  Others choose to sit on the meditation cushions every day.  And some break their habits of criticism and judgment.  Sometimes it takes a “wake up call” – a cataclysmic event or trauma – to break us out of our habits.  But why wait for that?

Take a look at what you repeatedly do.  In Nia, we call this “stalking the Self.”  Watch what you do and how you do it.  And then ask yourself, “Is that the practice that I want?  Is that what I want to create?”  If it is, then, by all means, continue and in a conscious and mindful way.  If it isn’t, take a breath, forgive yourself completely, with the recognition that you have done your best with every choice you’ve made so far.  Then ask yourself what your choice is now:  what do you want to create, what you do want to become?

The next step is to repeatedly come back and make that choice.  Over and over.  And over.

As many of my teachers have said:  “It’s a practice, not a perfect.”  I still worry.  I still argue vehemently with my own self in my own head.  And yet, as I practice, I notice what I’m repeatedly doing.  “We are what we repeatedly do.”  We are what we practice.  Keep practicing noticing what you repeatedly do.  Keep practicing the choice of what we want to become.

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5 comments
  1. Tom Hubbard said:

    Your post reminded me that I have wanted to suggest an article, which you may have seen, that talks about the value of improving excellence through coaching. It’s by Atul Gawande, writing in the New Yorker. This seemed like it might be something that NIA teachers could use. http://goo.gl/EjiAW

    • Interesting! Thank you, Tom. I look forward to checking it out! 🙂

  2. Lisa K. said:

    Wow-I was musing about practice quite a bit Sunday & my failure to practice certain activities vital to me-it is all about Practice…thanks for the synchronicity

    • Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

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