My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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“We Are What We Repeatedly Do…”


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

* If you’re starting a happiness project, you might like to use the Happiness Project Toolbox — a companion site that offers eight free tools to track resolutions, keep an inspiration board, keep a one-sentence journal, record your Secrets of Adulthood, etc. It’s a lot of fun.

  • rose

    Love this quote.

  • rose

    Love this quote.

  • MIche-SerenityHacker

    Aristotle’s wisdom is often so timeless, isn’t it? For me, this one applies too not to just what we do, but also to what we think and feel, which influences what we do.

    I’m truly enjoying your book right now, about half-way through it… Congrats on the NYT #1 spot, too!

    Miche :)

  • Andrew

    Cool quote, and oddly appropriate for myself at this special moment. Thanks Gretchen, keep on rocking :D



  • Craig

    Endless wisdom. Always interesting to read however many times I’ve read it.

  • Richard Shelmerdine

    Fantastic quote, it is one of my favourite and I seem to hear it everywhere. Just install a habit and you will be a success, simple as.

  • Cat

    Yes!!! What an inspiring way to start my day. Thanks for sharing the wealth, Gretchen, and CONGRATULATIONS for your book. Your habit of excellence is a joy to behold.
    Have a great day!
    ~ Cat

  • evarobertson

    Oh dear. I had hoped for excellence once in a while.

  • evarobertson

    Well, I just read on your “Secrets to Adulthood,” that “The opposite of a great truth is also true. ” Ergo, one needn’t be habitually excellent! Yeah!

  • Carol Grannick

    This is a great quote. I love the idea of creating a “self” from behavior that may or may not be completely comfortable…but becomes more comfortable with practice, until it feels much more like the “self” we want to be.

  • Matt at How To Get A Grip

    … but what we do doesn’t have to be who we are.

    I used to serve beer fourteen hours a day to drunk college kids, then spent two years stuffing envelopes.

    I had to remind myself continually that my job was what I did and not who I was …

  • EvaEvolving

    Gretchen, I love this quote. It’s a reminder to keep trying, keep learning, don’t get discouraged. “Practice makes perfect,” as they say.
    I just read Penelope Trunk’s latest post, and it is very similar: “Being an expert takes time, not talent.” She quotes a Harvard Business Review article that shows expertise is the result of practice, excellent teachers, and family support. Interesting stuff:
    Thanks for all your great work,

  • tex

    The page is laid out with a huge amount of information but no article!

  • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

    I treasure this quote. Mostly, because it reminds us that it really is up to us. That hard work matters. That control is within our grasp if we want it. That excellence is earned, not inherited.

  • Isabellagarden

    The corollary to this is: First we make our habits, then our habits make us. It’s easy to see this in vices like overeating and watching TV every night.

  • Tomas Stonkus

    My brain is having a tough time really understand this concept and it’s implications.

    Are we what we do?

    Or are what what others think of us doing?

  • Scott Cofer | Self Improvement

    One of my favorite quotes Gretchen! “Simple disciplines practiced every day” as Jim Rohn referred to it.

    So many people are looking for ‘the magic formula’, when in reality success boils down to simple, repetitive positive actions. I know it made ALL the difference for me …

    Glad I found your site.

    Best to you,

  • deedoucette

    This is one of my favorite quotes ever. Thanks for reminding me of it!

  • Yst

    Interesting how some people think we’re always discovering new knowledge, only have find it discovered a long time ago :).

    Not saying its a bad thing, of course.

  • Doris

    resolutions, keep an inspiration board, keep a one-sentence journal, record your Secrets of Adulthood, etc. It’s a lot of fun.

  • MarcosWagner

    Aristoteles didn’t use such a word: Excellence! He said VIRTUE, a much more deep concept! He was NOT worried about his workers’ productivity as a modern economist… This translation is quite anachronic!

    • Jake

      excellence and virtue are interchangeable by definition in the greek language. Just like “insolence” can mean rude, impolite, and disrespectful.

  • Eugene Eric Kim

    I love this quote. And, it’s actually misattributed. Will Durant wrote this as a summary of Aristotle’s philosophy.