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Excellence

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
— Aristotle

Geoff Colvin recently published a book titled Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. Colvin squashes the mythology around successful people; the myth that their excellence is innate. Colvin says, “Greatness doesn’t come from DNA but from practice and perseverance honed over decades.”

Excellence as a Spiritual Path

If we accept that Colvin’s assertion is true, as practitioners of a magical-spiritual path, we owe it to ourselves to find and practice effective techniques and objectively evaluate our progress. We must stop insulting the great magicians, witches and magic workers among us; dismissing their success as being an inborn talent and instead celebrate their hard work, perseverance and dedication to practice. We must instead commit to developing ourselves and our skills for greatness. We must accept nothing less than excellence from ourselves.

Finding great teachers and powerful methods of practice isn’t always easy, however. It seems important to be discerning in the people and influences with which you surround yourself.  We must choose those whom we learn from and practice with carefully.  Sometimes we must try different methodologies, groups or teachers before finding what works best for us.

Social Contagion and Barriers to Excellence

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health by researchers at Arizona State University found evidence that obesity seems to be socially contagious.  In short, the four researchers found that family members and friends tend to have similar body sizes.  The study concluded that people within a particular social circle will share similar dietary habits and activity levels (or lack thereof).  Body sizes had little to do with a sense of shared values but rather shared behaviors and habits.

Research into depression has yielded similar results. An article in Psychology Today reveals that there is a preponderance of evidence that depression is a social contagion, affecting the depressed person’s social network.  Even bad moods can quickly spread amongst friends, family members or even co-workers.

Perhaps it is a stretch, but it seems to me that the results of these studies could be applied to other areas of one’s life. What are the spending habits of your social network like?  Are the other Pagans you work with doing real inner work? Confronting personal demons and developing personally? Or do they simply talk in theory instead of from experience?  Are your friends and family members healthy?  Do they have vibrant and loving relationships?

Going Forward

While nothing will replace dedicated, focused hard-work, it seems that preparing our environment to support our goals will yield optimal results.  In a series of articles posted on Witchvox, author Sia notes that many people who come to Paganism are from dysfunctional families. She cites Anodea Judith who notes that many of these newcomers have not done the work to heal their painful pasts. Even just one dysfunctional person in a group can lay waste to years of working relationships. In short, this means that you must be very careful about who you work and study with if you are to maintain the ideal environment for yourself.

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