Practice Makes Perfect and The Science of Habit
You know the phrase, “Practice makes perfect”. It dawned on me that every day and in every moment, we are practicing what we think. I read a great scientific piece by Dr. Athena Staik on how our neurons can work with us or against us. It left me wondering at times, “Is this my cognitive thinking-self right now or am I reacting from the old habit brain wired long ago in my subconscious?” I have been preparing for my challenge of the year: 4 days of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, 5-8 miles a day. I found that doubt created by me came up like an old friend.
Doubt sounded like:
“You’re getting older, are you sure about this?”
“You did not lose the weight you wanted to hike these trails. You might get hurt.”
“What if you try and find out on top of the mountain that this is beyond you?”
Dr. Staik explains how the subconscious (my Doubt brain) wants two things: to feel good and to avoid pain. It almost was comical in the final days before our departure how often Doubt crept up. If we were acting out a two person play, it would have gone like this:
Doubt: “I’m worried about you hurting yourself on the trail.”
Me: “What is this really about?”
Doubt: “I don’t think you trained enough for this.”
Me: “I think I have this. I have trained for 2 months. I wish it were more now that the trip is upon us, but I’m feeling confident.”
Doubt: “Are you sure? This might hurt. Or be uncomfortable.”
Me: “It’s going to be beautiful. We’ve got this. It might hurt. It might be uncomfortable. And I want to do it anyway!”
The doubt did not go away. That is OK. I met it every time with curiosity and compassion. Curiosity: “What’s this fear all about? Let’s meet it with the mind of reason and logic.” Compassion: “I don’t have to get this right the first time. I might make a mistake. That’s ok. We’ll meet the moment and ask for what we need.”
So, Day 1 of hiking was today. Doubt continued to make an appearance. My breathing could have been mistaken for a rhino on the path. Doubt was concerned. But as my friend Dot says, Step by step and stop by stop. I hiked 5.2 miles and saw sights that took my breath away. Waterfalls, forests, mountains… It was uncomfortable. And exquisite.
I think doubt is a natural way our fear tries to protect us from pain or push us toward feeling good. This is not in line with where I want to go. Meeting doubt and doing it anyway is the practice I want to continue in my growth.
In the three-part article below, Dr. Staik explains thoroughly how our brains work and how we can work with our brains to learn and grow. My take-away is to meet the doubt and ask, “What is producing the thought?” When I start with that question, I am better able to move with confidence toward my dreams. Here’s the link to the first article. The following two you can find from there.
Let me know what you think! 6.2 Miles tomorrow!