Your Actions Define You

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Many have heard of this quote. It’s epic. It’s in my favorite movie, Gladiator. But have you ever stopped to wonder why he didn’t say one of these instead?

What we think echoes in eternity.

What we feel echoes in eternity.

Neither of those is true!

When I was a small lad, I took my dog Shiloh for a walk. I had one of those retractable leashes that extends up to 20 feet. On this sunny day in Florida, Shiloh saw a squirrel. She sprinted full speed toward the squirrel and for a brief moment, the leash in my right hand reeled like I had a big one on the line. I guess I did—a 70-pound dog. The reeling didn’t last long before I involuntarily left my feet, slammed into the sidewalk, gashed my knee, and let go.

My feelings in that moment were a combination of pain and anger (bad dog!). My thoughts: “Ow.” But in that same day, I moved on, and better yet, there were no echoes, or certainly not eternal ones. While thoughts and feelings are internal experiences, actions are internal experiences and external events, the latter of which gives them the chance to echo in the world for eternity. The heroes of the past changed the world in a significant way through action.

One might argue that great philosophers, politicians, and scientists changed the world with their ideas, but it’s only because they put those ideas into action. When we die, we will be remembered for what we did, not for what we thought or felt.

We’ve all had thoughts that we didn’t act upon or vocalize, maybe because we knew they were wrong or harmful. We’ve also had useless thoughts and ideas that weren’t worth acting upon. I’m simultaneously ashamed and proud to have thought about taking a bath in peanut butter, but I’ve never done it. We’re very fortunate that our thoughts are private, or we’d all be embarrassed beyond recovery at some point. 

It’s so important to internalize this—thoughts and feelings come and go, but our actions reverberate throughout the entirety of our lives and beyond. Our actions make us who we are. 

The first part is acknowledging the importance of action over thoughts and feelings. The second part is doing what you want to do. We all have bad habits and resist doing the right things sometimes.

Nobody will live perfectly because nobody is perfect. Even that is a reflection of who we are. The best we can do is consistently take action in the areas that matter most to us. That’s what all of my books focus on! Here’s what I’ve written so far, with an update for my next book…

Mini Habits: The original “small habits” book is in 21 languages. It’s what kickstarted my and many others’ exercise habit. Eight years after this book, I still work out every day unless I need rest, and they are full workouts, not just one push-up. “Smaller habits, bigger results” is a real thing!

Mini Habits for Weight Loss: A superior alternative to dieting. It applies the best behavior change strategy to one of the more difficult areas to change. It teaches you how to gradually change your food and movement preferences without triggering the subconscious and biological rebellion that traditional dieting does.

How to Be an Imperfectionist: Probably my most beloved book. I think perfectionism is so pervasive that everyone can relate to this book when they read it. Just like every person has flaws and lives a flawed life, every person has perfectionistic tendencies that hold them back. Our incessant desire for perfection is, ironically, one of our deepest flaws. This book shows you specific actions you can take to reverse that mindset and become an imperfectionist.

Elastic Habits: My latest book is a fun spin on Mini Habits. Instead of just one mini habit level of success, you can have three levels of success and multiple ways to win at each level. The result: you have the perfect answer for any day. Bad day? Mini level. Feeling energized? Go for an Elite win. Don’t want to do something specifically? Adapt with a substitute behavior. It’s the first adaptive habit system, and it works really well!

My next book: I work on it every day! I plan to release it in late 2021. It builds off of my prior works and answers some common questions I’ve gotten over the years about the mini habit way of doing things. It will change the way you think about life. I can’t wait to share more!


Stephen Guise

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