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FitDeck Blog with Founder Phil Black

Until it Becomes a Habit

Posted by Phil Black on September 1st, 2014

Until It Becomes a Habit

Every once in a while, somebody tells me something so profound that I can't help but dwell on it. It's often very simple - but also very powerful. Such moments imprint themselves in my mind and help me during unsure times.

Such wisdom is rarely confined to one specific subject. Rather, it has far-reaching implications across many disciplines.

Such was the bit of wisdom my friend and mentor dropped on me last week. I was talking to her about breathing. She was coaching me on proper breathing technique and discussing the healing and recuperative powers of breathing when performed correctly (we'll discuss this in more detail at a later date).

breathing

I was fascinated and intrigued by my mentor's mastery of the subject. I devoured every bit of knowledge she passed on.

By the end of our session, I had finally gotten the hang of the technique. I was able to breathe the "correct way" for small bits of time. I really liked what I was experiencing, but needed considerable practice.  I was committed to incorporating this new way of "breathing" into my daily life.

With a pen and paper in hand, I asked my mentor, "Okay, so how do I master this? How much do I have to practice? Just say the word and I'll do it." I hit her with the following volley of questions in quick succession:

  1. How many times a day do I practice? 
  2. How many minutes per session?
  3. How many sessions per week?
  4. How many sessions per month?
  5. When will I notice a difference?
  6. When can I consider myself a master?

I needed answers. With the answers to these questions, mastery was surely within reach.

My mentor is a woman of high intellect and experience - but few words. She rarely gives specific answers to such detailed questions. She would much rather that I answer these questions on my own.

Her simple answer to my flurry of questions was this:

"You'd like to know how often you should practice the technique? Until it becomes a habit."

I was stymied. I didn't know where to go or what to say. How could I respond? I wanted to know exactly, to the minute, how many times I should practice this method and when it would click.

Instead of giving me the detailed prescription I craved, she left it up to me. I would know when I reached mastery once the technique became a habit. After all, everyone is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all-solution.

Wow! For someone is very detail- and task-oriented, this threw me for a loop. I would be left to my own devices on this one. This was uncharted water.

As I reflected on this concept in the following days, it occurred to me that such advice seemed to hold true for many facets of life.

Widespread application

Oftentimes, people ask me how many times they should do their FitDeck cards, how many cards per day, when should they move up to the next fitness level, etc. I would try my best to give them detailed answers despite not knowing their fitness profile and true motivations. Now that I think about it, I may have failed these people.

What about diet? People ask me, "How long should I plan to stay on diet XYZ to get optimal results?" My new answer may be: Until your preferred method of eating becomes a habit.

What about spirituality? How much should I pray every day to feel like I am living the spiritual life I desire? My new answer may be: Pray and reflect as often as it takes for your desired, daily spiritual mindfulness to become a habit.

What about practicing for a sport like basketball?  How often should I practice shooting baskets with my non-dominant hand? How about until the use of your non-dominant hand is as habitually easy as your dominant hand.

Even with this revelation, I still have mixed feelings about this line of thinking. While profound, it may leave too much to the individual. In today's hectic times, some people don't have the time, wherewithal, or discipline to make this happen with such lack of specifics. Even with specifics, compliance is difficult.

I can hear it already, "If it's not programmed into my iPhone, it doesn't get done."

Well, such is life. There are times when we should sit back and think about why we do what we do. If you work better with specific "check-boxes", then go for it. If you have the ability to think on a more holistic level, then give the "habit" theory a try.

I hope this serves you in your daily lives. Habits make us what we are. How we build those habits are up to us.

Until next week,

Phil Black

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