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What do you do? Seriously. I'm not fooling around here. What do you do?

I bet a bunch of you answered that question with a job title. Another bunch made a wisecrack remark (I used to call myself "Lord of Janitors"). Another group made a quick mental list in their heads.

Recently I've become very fond of the quote, often erroneously attributed to Aristotle, but actually from Will Durant in a book about philosophy ─ "We are what we repeatedly do." I have believed for most of my adult life that our actions, not our words, are what define us. But in this information-centric, social-media world that we now live in words seems to be what most people do, and entirely too many people use their words to be negative.

They are negative about politics. They are negative about culture. They are negative about their neighbors, their family, their friends, their coworkers, their employers, etc. ad nauseam. This year for Lent I gave up criticism. For 40 days and 40 nights I struggled against my snarky nature to resist the urge to find fault. My wife was thrilled. So were my kids. Here's the big thing though - it changed me.

Criticism is easy. Sometimes it's even fun. Often, it's necessary (one wouldn't want the engineers maintaining the airliner taking them on a cross-country trip to suddenly cease to examine the plane without a critical eye). But it can be a crutch. Instead of contributing to a project, you just pick at the bits that won't work. Instead of appreciating the effort put into creating something you offer how you would have done it differently.

For 40 days I didn't do any of that. It was a struggle, and I failed at it several times. But it altered my relationships with several people and reinvigorated my involvement in my work, the organizations I volunteer with and the ways I choose to spend my free time. I'm not saying I'm suddenly a die-hard optimist or corporate cheerleader, but I am saving criticism for times when it matters.

We are, again, what we repeatedly do. So think about how you spend your time. What things do you do over and over again? Those are the things that define you. That is who you are. If you make this examination, and don't like your conclusion, you can change it. Do different stuff.

Many people believe it takes 21 days for most people to turn something into a habit. You can become someone else in less than a month.


Learn more about Joe here.
SPRING 2014
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