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We Learn Through Repetition: Be Careful What You Practice

We learn through repetition. Learning a new skill, exercise or embodied practice needn’t be boring or hard, when you shift to this new view of repetition. “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Would you expect to master your craft if you did the required tasks only once? Say you want to be a world-class speaker — but you haven’t opened your mouth since you said “Mama” as a baby? That would be ludicrous. We learn through repetition…everything! Walk, talk, comb your hair, brush your teeth…I challenge you to come up with one thing you’ve learned to do well that didn’t involve repetition.

We learn through repetition — therefore how can we practice it more mindfully and effectively?

“Repetition is boring, Maria! I want it to be easy. I want to master it TODAY.” Boredom, desire for ease and instant results…these are roadblocks we put up in front of ourselves. But consider this…

Everything we easily do today was mastered through repetition. You may not remember, but it was hard at first, and it took time. That’s reality.

Think of a toddler learning to walk. How many times did you fall and have to get back up? You can’t remember can you? Why? Because you mind wasn’t on, “Oh this is boring, hard repetition. I’m such a failure because it’s taking so long.” No, your mind was on, “I want that toy. I want that candy dish. I want to go outside.”

Then you began to notice how your body sensations sent messages to your brain — “Oh, if I hold my arms out, I don’t fall. If I don’t lean forward, I won’t fall. Cool!” Those are lessons your brain and body learned together. It was hard. It was messy. But the end result, when you mastered it, walking became one of the most graceful, synchronized movements of your body.

When we were little we naturally learned as an embodied practice that invited awareness, choice and presence in the moment. However, somewhere along the way we forget how to be in the body; we stop listening to it. We mentally start treating our bodies as objects for criticism, ridicule, neglect, or abuse. Other people, or we ourselves, feed our minds on messages like, “You can’t do that ____? You’re lazy. You’re useless. You’ll never amount to anything. I hate my body.”

We thrive when we get back to the basics of embodied living and embracing the joy of learning through repetition, we encourage our body and mind to work as a unit, somatically. An embodied practice supports you as you strengthen your sense of self. You’ll have more awareness so you see all options and make choices rather than emotionally reacting to situations.

Be like a child who loves to sing the same song and hear the same story over and over again. That open, welcoming attitude shifts your view of repetition. It’s not drudgery; it’s a delight that your body/mind connection is getting stronger each time you try your new skill.  Each session of practice, whether you “see” results, is giving you results in the neural connections of your mind.

According to studies, your brain has neuronal plasticity meaning your neurons have the ability to increase their connection and communication through repetition. The more you use your new neural pathways the stronger they become. The more your brain and body learns a skill, the less energy it needs to complete it. Your potential is limitless. Choose what you want to practice and do it consistently. As Jeremy Bentham eloquently said,

“In principle and in practice, in a right track and in a wrong one, the rarest of all human qualities is consistency.”

Your brain uses a technique called spaced repetition. It involves learning something new, then minutes later retrieving that information, then retrieving it again before bed, then retrieving it again the next morning, then retrieving it two days later, then a week later, and so forth, until it’s firmly planted in the brain.

And maybe that’s the key to shifting your view of learning through repetition. You are never doing the same thing over again, because today you know more than you did yesterday. Today you have a stronger neural connection than you did yesterday. Today you are better than you were yesterday. You are mindfully retrieving something valuable that time is trying to take from you. You keep taking it back and owning it.

This doesn’t mean you push yourself everyday. There must be spaced intervals for rest and recovery in between each attempt.

When you learn through repetition, you’ll have systems and rituals implanted in your brain that you can apply to any new problem or situation you encounter. “If I hold out my arms, I won’t fall down,” becomes, “If I keep my life balanced, I will feel satisfied and fulfilled”. 

What are you trying to learn in your personal or professional life? Do you need a mentor or coach? I am passionate about helping men and women reach their full potential. Please contact me and schedule a 30-minute complimentary consultation by phone or via Zoom to see if working with me is the right fit for both of us.

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