Be not simply good – be good for something. –Henry David Thoreau
In the middle of a High School poetry class, the teacher leaped onto his desk, stood towering close to the ceiling, and looked into the faces of his astounded students. The boys gazed up at him, astonished. They keenly awaited an explanation.
“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at life in a different way,” he thundered. “You see, the world looks very different from up here.”
The students raised quizzical eyebrows and glanced at each other with wry smiles.
“You don’t believe me? Come see for yourselves,” the teacher invited. He beckoned for the boys to join him atop the desk at the front of the classroom.
“Come on! Come on!” he urged as the boys scrambled onto the desk, two by two. Each pair would scan the classroom from the new vantage point for a few seconds and hop down to make room for their classmates.
If you have watched it, you may recognize this as a scene from the 1989 movie, The Dead Poets’ Society, starring Robin Williams as the poetry teacher who urges his students: “Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Make your lives extraordinary.” The results are life-changing.
Do you believe that your life is extraordinary? Or like you have the ability to make it exceptional? It’s one thing to know what we want to achieve, or even what we want to stop doing; but sometimes we’re just so stuck in old habits, we might as well be swimming in quicksand. The things we wish we could stop doing – the things that stop us from achieving our best – are often the very ones we seem powerless to break away from.
Do you spend ridiculous amounts of time on social media or watching TV? Or do you sleep late, wake up late, and get late to work or appointments? Perhaps the habit is eating too much junk food, or just eating too much. It could even be a struggle with speaking the truth. Whatever the habit that’s holding you back, you’ve probably tried and failed to kick it at least a couple of times. Sometimes it’s actually a habit you’re trying to pick up, like exercising, reading, or saving money.
A new a vantage point may be what you need to look at your life from a different perspective. So, rather than be a couch potato who’s trying to get some exercise, envision how happy you would be hiking or biking with friends. Instead of someone who struggles to get up early to be on time for work, see how elated you would be jumping out of bed when you turn the hobby you love into what you do for a living. Instead of someone stuck in the same situation because you postpone your goals for fear of failure, imagine a more resilient self with the mental fortitude that success requires.
Though old habits may be difficult to break, and healthy habits hard to develop, I have good news for you: it’s possible to form, and maintain, new positive habits. The secret is in ‘repetition’ – practice, practice, practice.
Carpe diem! Seize the day. Don’t aim at just being good; be good for a purpose. If you can envision your purpose – that which will make your life extraordinary – and aim for that, you might find that the old habits fall away and the good ones become part of your life without much effort.