Habit & Character

I found this quote the other day when I was going through moving boxes in the basement:

Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization.

The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane. The only preparation for that one profound decision which can change a life, or even a nation, is those hundreds of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private.

Habit is the daily battleground of character.

-Dan Coats

So I had to ask myself, what do I do when the going gets tough? I take a nap, eat a piece of toast, check Facebook, hoping to feel refreshed when I come back. In fact, by the time I get back to whatever I was doing, I do feel better… at least while I get warmed up. Or I tell myself I just need to think it through… and I get all sorts of great ideas, but then need another break as soon as I hit a wall. What gives? I give. Up. WAY too easily.

I haven’t always been that way, in fact I’d dare say I’ve been downright obstinate at times in trying to solve problems I think are important. But in trying to find balance, I guess you could say my willpower has lost tone. Now I wonder what would happen if I really were faced with a critical decision. In fact I’d bet my collection of little decisions are affecting me right now.

They say a weightlifter builds muscle by pushing just past that point where it feels like they can’t go anymore, and THEN allowing those muscles to recover. I think I’ve been resting well before that point, thinking it’s a better idea, but I really just feel like I’ve atrophied my mental and emotional strength.

So, I’m replacing an old habit with a new one: when the going gets tough, I’ll set a timer for one wee little minute, and during that minute I’ll push harder than ever. If I find I can bear a little longer, I’ll set it for two. Then I’ll get up, get a drink of water, and dance to a song or take a quick walk through the neighborhood to rest my psyche — while giving my body a chance to move for a moment.

At the very least I’ll be building my physical strength. I hope to build my emotional and mental strength as well. Wish me luck!

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