You Are What You Do

You know the old adage: you are what you eat.

Well, add to that: you are what you repeatedly do.

When you look at someone’s posture, you are in part seeing what they have repeatedly done over and over and over again.

I have a postural habit of pulling my left shoulder in towards my body. I know that this particular postural habit comes from many years in high school, college and grad school of always carrying my school bag on my left shoulder.

Not unlike the little girl in the picture.

It was something I did over and over and over again.

I carried my bag that way in part because everyone did. If you used a backpack you definitely didn’t have the straps on both shoulders. That was not cool!

If you used a book bag, you didn’t carry it across your body. Also, not cool! You slung it from one shoulder.

And a roller bag, god forbid!

After a while I didn’t think twice about it. That’s just the way you carried your bag. On one shoulder, and in my case, on my left shoulder.

It was comfortable to carry my bag this way. Comfortable, because it was familiar. Comfortable because I looked like everyone else. And I didn’t want to stand out.

But not physically comfortable.

Over time, this particular habit of mine made my shoulders uneven and sometimes even caused pain and discomfort on my left side.

So, it was a habit that when I became aware of it, I wanted to practice doing less of!

One way that I work on this postural habit is that I choose to vary how I carry things.

First, this involves choosing what I am not going to do.

I choose not to carry any bags on one shoulder. That goes for backpacks, messenger bags, gym bags, or my purse.

Second, this involves choosing what I am going to do.

If I have a book bag, a computer bag or a messenger bag, I wear it across my body.

If I have a purse, I use one that crosses over my body. And I vary the way I cross it over my body. Sometimes right to left. Sometimes left to right.

When I travel I use a backpack, with the straps on both shoulders, as my carry on. Alternatively, I use a small roller bag.

Notice that I said, “one way that I work on this postural habit…” Present tense.

I did not say, “one way that I worked on this postural habit…”

That’s because I continue to make the above choices of what I want to do and what I don’t want to do. Consciously making the choices to do this one thing differently as made a big difference for me over time.

It’s made a difference because I don’t make these choices occasionally. I make them consistently.

My body and my posture thank me for it!

The quote at the top of this post is part of a longer quote attributed to Aristotle:

You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, it is a habit.

I might adapt his words slightly:

You are what you repeatedly do. Posture then, is not an act, it is a habit.

4 Replies to “You Are What You Do”

    1. Hey Don! If you wanna write, write like you! I know you and your sense of humor and I am sure it would be great! And as for growing up, I think it is overrated! 🙂

  1. Lauren, thank you for this great blog. It’s so important to remember to notice our habits. I suffered a debilitating repetitive strain injury and every day when I start to work I remind myself not to fall back into old habits that contribute to the pain. I catch myself doing it all the time. Thanks for this really useful reminder.

    1. You’re welcome Raquel. It’s very interesting (and frustrating at times!) how good we are at our bad habits. But that is only because we have practiced them for so long! And we get good at what we practice! One way that I try to reframe catching myself doing a habit that I know is unhelpful for the umpteenth time is to realize that it is an opportunity for me to practice what the Alexander Technique refers to as Inhibition-doing less of what is not useful. So, noticing the harmful habit provides an opportunity for me to practice a helpful habit of Inhibition. And the more I practice this better I get.

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