We are what we repeatedly do

Richard Branson smiling
Image from John Armstrong Photography
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 2 July 2017

When I think about my life, routine isn’t a word that naturally comes to mind. I love to be adventurous, I love to be unusual and I love to be spontaneous. I also spend a lot of my life on the move. So why would I need a routine? Nevertheless, I do have a routine of sorts, and I swear by it.

Richard Branson sitting in an armchair writing
Image by John Armstrong Photography

Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” He is talking, far more eloquently than I ever could, about the value of repetition. This is something I have learned to understand and appreciate even more as I get older.

Take one example: every morning I wake up, check in on work and the world, then go out and exercise - be it walking, swimming, tennis or kitesurfing. When I was younger, this wasn’t always the case. I have always enjoyed exercising, but I didn’t make it part of my routine – I thought I was too busy.

In reality, I can be less busy but more productive by making exercise a daily habit. It’s all about finding ways to exercise that are enjoyable. I’m not a huge fan of exercise bikes, but I love to cycle with family and friends, for example.

Richard Branson cycling during the Strive challenge
Image from the Virgin Strive Challenge

What’s more, I get better at exercising the more I do it. My tennis game is stronger now in my sixties than during my twenties, because I repeatedly try shots, regularly play matches, and gradually improve.

I also track my exercise progress – especially at the moment while taking part in the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. My team is taking on more than 400,000 fellow members from 1,500 organisations in 185 countries embarking on a virtual journey that encourages physical activity, healthy eating, stress resilience, sleep quality and healthy habits. Having a challenge adds an element of competition, makes it fun, and encourages us to make healthy choices every day.

Take another example: note-taking. By repeatedly taking down notes in every meeting I have, I have refined my technique so it is now a second nature habit. My routine of turning these notes into blogs, emails, calls and other follow-ups ensures action comes out of my habit too.

Richard Branson in his house by the pool on Necker Island
Kevin Wolf

What forms part of your routine that helps you make healthy choices, and form lasting habits?