Not all habits should be broken

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT

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

Habits are funny things.  They tend to sneak up on us, so seemingly innocuous, only to grab a stronghold until they have established themselves as a pattern in our daily lives. Some habits are downright bothersome, such as my own habit of bouncing my knee up and down when I am nervous or impatient.  For some, it is nail-biting; for others, it may be knuckle-cracking.  Whatever these negative behaviors may be, one thing is certain: it takes a tremendous amount of effort and determination to break them and end the cycle permanently.

Yet unsavory habits are not the only ones that are evident as part of our human nature. Smiling when we see an old friend, saying thank you to a customer-service provider, or even covering one’s mouth when yawning, are all prime examples of good habits.  These are the behaviors that have crept into our lives and have remained in place because they serve us well, feel good, and have no need to be eradicated.

When it comes to fitness, each of us has a choice to make every day: might we choose to engage in regular physical activity in order to improve/preserve our health and well-being, or does sitting on the couch seem like a more prudent option?  Whichever direction we ultimately decide to take, rest assured it will, over time, become habit-forming.  Certainly the ardent gym-goer will have days when scheduling or illness precludes working out; and sometimes the sedentary individual actually feels like taking a walk around the neighborhood.  When we choose to engage in an activity, or the lack thereof, we are in effect making a statement about our self-perception.

I have long ago come to terms with the fact that there is no such entity as “perfection”, and have tried instead to dedicate my life to the pursuit of excellence.  Sometimes I am more successful than others; such are the vagaries of life.  Yet somewhere along the way, striving for excellence each and every day, in some small way, does become habit-forming. Choosing to make each day, each action, as impactful as possible empowers one beyond belief.  When done repeatedly, as the great philosopher Aristotle points out, the shift from “act” to “habit” begins to emerge.

Today, think about striving for excellence – in your job, your family dynamics, and your fitness program. Do it for yourself….and keep doing it….again and again.  Before you know it, this behavior will have woven itself into the very fabric of your life.

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center.