The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
I work hard, I train for hours. I’ve thought about strength vs. endurance vs. stretching. But I’ve never really thought about how to really train to be an elite performer. How to train to be able to produce the consistent show that I want, without all the stress and nerves. It turns out that the answer is habit. Each piece should be so ingrained that when the music starts, my body reacts. No thought or worry or doubt left, only the desire to make it a little better than the last time by eliminating the self doubt or shakiness or misfirings of too much adrenaline.
I’ve never been very good at habits though, or will power, or discipline…whatever you want to call it. When told to do simple repetitive tasks, my brain screams in a petulant whine, “why?!”
And sometimes, I know “why” and sometimes I don’t, but it doesn’t much matter to my level or commitment to being disciplined. No where is this more apparent than in my feelings about making my bed in the morning. Why should I? Especially when I happen to love crawling into the messy nest I call bed at night, since I work and eat from my bed, relax and watch movies from my bed. Why would I bother making it to rumple it up again? Ever?
Well it seems that there may just be psychological value to the act. It is a signal to your brain to start your day, to wake up, to get up and go! It is also a habit that I currently don’t have and according to the Power of Habit, the best way to conquer other habits like not drinking so much, getting to the gym every morning, writing 5 pages a day is by changing something like making my bed. A “keystone habit.“
At least I think it is. In reality, finding the keystone habit(s) that will knock down my bad habits and build up my good ones, is way more tricky and confusing. For instance, will daily meditation help relieve stress, create awareness and prevent over drinking? In theory. Or will waking up early to write or workout make it easier to wind down and fall asleep at night rather than end the day with a glass of wine? Maybe.
Alright, let’s break it down. 3 things: small wins, new platforms and contagious excellence. So, making the bed, writing, working out and meditating are all small wins I suppose. Unless of course its a day of writer’s block, a bad day at the gym, or a schedule that keeps you pushing snooze more often than you accomplish these things, I suppose. New platforms…okay, I guess that’s the beginning idea. I imagine my pieces in my head. I do this before I go to bed, when I wake up, right before performing, etc. And I also practice them over and over in real life. I make the pieces themselves a habit. That part I get. Part three, contagious excellence. I’m a little unclear about if this means a culture of excellence by implementing the first two principles, or if it means to surround yourself with the people, environment, etc. that will encourage and support your excellence. Though, I suppose both are pretty good points.
So, maybe just waking up at a certain time each day and picking workout, write, clean or meditate would be a good keystone habit. And maybe the freedom to pick from one each day will keep me from sabotaging my new habit with boredom. Of course, not picking workout for my first hour of consciousness doesn’t mean that I skip a workout that day all together, it just means that perhaps I should try doing one of those four things before I get up and open the computer and the emails and the distraction. Possibly. But definitely worth a try.
Well, glad we got that sorted. I’m still not entirely sure I understand how to identify a keystone habit, besides retroactively of course. But at least I have something new to try. And I’m excited to be so polished on my pieces that I never have to get nervous again. Well, at least not too nervous. ;)