Friday, April 13, 2012

On Practice

A life philosophy is useless if it doesn't have a training regimen. Habits and desires are powerful. They nearly always win in a battle with will-power. That is why New Year Resolutions are notorious for petering out after a month or so. Inertia is the default condition of the human race.

Professional athletes need to put themselves through a brutal training regimen. None of them could do it on their own in their rookie season. So they have coaches and camaraderie to push them through it. But over the years, the hard training becomes habit. Veterans like Kevin Garnett practice in the off-season automatically, without questioning it or thinking about it. It's part of who they are.

If you want to successfully adopt new principles and behaviors into your life, you need to get them into you deeper than the brain level - down into your guts, your instincts. You need practice to train your  habits and your emotions. The first step towards being 100 pounds thinner or a marathon runner or an elite hacker is to change your self-beliefs. You surround yourself with people you want to be like and you take the first small steps along the path until you see yourself as one of them.

Religions know the importance of practice and use it. Christians are taught that they should be in control over their physical desires. But instruction doesn't stop at the end of church services. To help them practice restraint, they have the tradition of Lent. For 40 days in the Spring they give up some pleasurable activity that they normally enjoy. Rather than being a burden, Lent is popular - even in Christian sects where it is not required and among secular people!

The will is weak. It needs every help it can get. When you become convinced that a change in your life is necessary, don't stop at the stage of mental belief. Ask yourself, how am I going to practice this? How am I going to convince my subconscious, my heart? How can I form a support community? How can I get this change into my self-conception?

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