Aristotle: How To Create A Habit.
We acquire virtues because we practice them.
Something I love to read is the richness we can find in the words of others. It doesn’t matter if years or centuries have passed; words never expire. Even those that we consider cruel or bad leave us with great lessons.
Aristotle was an enigmatic character in his time, and he is still doing so now. He was one of Plato’s closest disciples, and within his philosophy, we can notice the great influence he had on Plato.
But when Plato died, the Academy -a school that Plato founded- passed to Aristotle and he rejected it. From that moment he founded his own school, known as the Lyceum, and wrote about 200 works, of which only 31 are preserved.
One of his best-known books is Ethics to Nicomacheus, addressed to his own son. It is one of the most influential books on moral philosophy and deals with various topics such as friendship, love, and how to lead a happy life.
For Aristotle, the goal of the human being was to reach happiness; what he called eudaimonia. For eudaimonia to be possible, a meeting point between three elements is necessary: reason, habits, and a good life.
Reason + Habits = Good Life -> Eudaimonia
The sum of reason and habits results in a good life. However, the good life and happiness (eudaimonia) are not the same thing. Only the prolongation in time of these 3 elements leads us to a state of happiness.
It all starts with habits.
“Anyone who wants to lead a good life must be able to change and form habits.”
The reason is the capacity that we possess by the mere fact of being human beings. Whether we use it or waste it, it is there.
In the case of habits, each one of us possesses different ones and they have an important impact on the way we feel and see things. This was well known to Aristotle and that is why he puts so much emphasis on them.
The reason? Habits, in the long run, form virtues. And virtue is only acquired if we practice healthy habits every day.
How do I start changing my habits?
According to Aristotle, this is a simple thing, but not easy. He doesn’t lay out certain steps to follow, but I found a way to break down what he says:
- Start by changing your approach.
- Go against your wishes.
- Observe your second nature.
Many times we do not achieve what we set out to do because we are seeing it from a very poor perspective. The motivation for creating healthy habits is that in the long run, you will lead a happy and good life.
Once you have started to create a habit and you are in that process, you will have very strong desires for wanting to quit. You will get thoughts like “it’s okay to let a day go by” or “I don’t feel like I’m moving forward”. That is why it is very important that when they appear you recognize them as something normal within your process. You are unaccustomed your body and mind to something. That is the expected reaction. What is important here is that you are willing to go against that desire.
Finally, it is your turn to observe. As the days go by you will notice that this habit is becoming easier and easier and will manifest itself naturally. Before it becomes a virtue, you will recognize it as second nature and you will only have to observe how you achieved what you found so difficult.
Observing it will make you aware of it and with it you will be able to maintain it in time. Maintain in time that which has cost you so much effort.
I leave you with one last question:
What habit do you want to start with?