“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
Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.E) was an ancient Greek philosopher known for his wide range of knowledge in science and social science. He is credited as the Father of Logic because of his emphasis on logical reasoning combined with scientific methods. His body of works were influential and groundbreaking that Aquinas dubbed him “The Philosopher”. The success of Alexander the Great was largely attributed to the counsel of his tutor Aristotle.
Aristotle believed that good reasoning and intellectual virtue are the ingredients for a well-lived life. He found happiness and satisfaction in expanding his curiosity and making new discoveries until his last days. Most importantly, he devoted his life in expanding the barriers of human reasoning. Like Plato, he knew the importance of moulding the minds of the next generation as a way of safeguarding knowledge. Before he died, he founded a school of learning known as the “Lyceum”.
His extraordinary intellectual capacity was a product of habit. In this quote, he emphasized the importance of practice and devotion as a necessary factor for excellence. He was the kind of teacher who attributed his students’ success to habit, not genes or social status. He was a firm believer of the people’s capacity to change their stars and become an enlightened human being.
Undoubtedly, Aristotle was not the only believer of excellence through habit. Here are some further quotes that illustrate the same principles:
“My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.” ― Charles Dickens (Victorian Era novelist)
“Excellence is not a skill. It’s an attitude.” – Ralph Marston (American writer)
“There is no excellence without labor. One cannot dream oneself into either usefulness or happiness.” – Liberty Hyde Bailey (American scientist)
Excellence is a product of endless sharpening and moulding of skills. Take habit out of the equation and you’ll end up with mediocrity.
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