Become a Master

Mastering any physical skill takes practice. Practicing is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement that helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence.

Here’s a little bit of science to understand what happens when we practice things. You can skip this paragraph if you want to go straight to getting the most out of your practice time.

Our brain has two types of neural tissues. Gray matter, which processes information directing signals and sensory stimuli to nerve cells, and white matter, which is made of fatty tissues and nerve matters.

For our body to move, the information needs to travel from the grey matter down the spinal cord, to a chain of nerve fibers called axons in our muscles. The axons in the white matter are wrapped with a substance called myelin. This substance changes when you practice: it’s like black electric tape on electrical cables. It prevents energy loss from electrical signals that the brain uses, moving them more effectively along neural pathways.

When you repeat a physical motion, it increases the layers of myelin that insulates the axon. The more layer, the greater the insolation around the axon. This forms a sort of super highway for information that connects your brain to your muscles.

Muscles don’t have what is commonly referred to as muscle memory. It’s rather the increase of the myelin layers forming a better insolation that creates a faster and more efficient neural pathway that gives the impression of the muscle memory phenomenon.

Enough science for now.

Mastery isn’t simply about the hours you put into practice, but also the quality and effectiveness of your practice.

To be effective, practice must be consistent, intensely focused, and must target content or weaknesses that lies at the edge of your current abilities. 

Here’s how to get the most out of your practice time.

  • Focus on the task at end. Reduce all potential distractions like TV, computer and cell phone notifications.
  • Start slowly. You will build your coordination through correct or incorrect repetition. Try to gradually increase the speed of the correct repetitions.
  • Repeat frequently with a few breaks in between. You’ll be better off dividing your time for effective practice into many daily practice sessions of limited duration.
  • Once you have established a physical motion, you can reinforce it with vivid visualization. Practice by imagining your craft with as much detail as possible.

Enjoy becoming a master!

Running in Circles

You probably know what you want to change in your life, but maybe you’re not open to change, or you’re stuck in a loop.

You want to change, but can’t seem to accomplish what you said you would, or you don’t know how to make it happen.

Maybe you do things, but it’s not working, and you don’t know what to do differently.

You might be too afraid because you know your own limitations, or it’s impossible because you would destroy everything you’ve built so far.

You’re running in circles. If only you could take action. You don’t feel like it though. You’re too tired. You’re afraid. You can’t. Your boss won’t let you. You have bills to pay. And you have 5 or 10 more very good reasons not to.

Changing something is a lot of work, and nobody feels like doing it. And there’s the difference between someone who’s running in circles, who feels stuck, and someone who does it anyway and makes things happen.

I know. The life you created makes you feel trapped and frustrated. You want something more.

The only antidote to running in circles is action. You’re in charge, and you can do the hard work to make your desires come true. Take action when you don’t feel like it, when you worry you can’t, and when everyone says you’re crazy.

Listen to that little twinge and stop running in circles.

The Next Avenue

When you comment on a post, your ideas sometimes meet with something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Like Mark said on “Can This Work for Me“:

I too am guilty of rationalizing away the solution all too often. And you nailed it! Because it takes me outside of my comfort zone. So I just give up and look for the next avenue.

You see, I read tons of books (and that’s the problem), but I get frustrated because I’m not retaining the information I’m reading. Science says we remember only 10% of what we read. Even so, with 10% of everything I’ve read, I should be pretty close to hitting Nirvana! I should be the happiest, fittest, healthiest, most organized person in the world!

Unfortunately, I’m far from having completed this feat. Which is a good thing in a way, because I can continue to grow, but it’s also frustrating because I feel like starting over and over again from ground zero.

My frustration is caused by my hunger for what Mark calls “the next avenue”. I read the book, implemented a few of the things the author prescribed, and then forget about what I’ve learned because I’m reading another great book, from which I take a few tricks to make my life better, and this loop just goes on.

There’s a lot of good information. My problem is I want to have the best information, and use it to grow into a better person. So I’m still chasing “the next avenue”.

One solution I found for this never ending chase is to re-read books that I find have the most life changing information.

Taking notes is tedious, but the rare time I did it, and went through them a few times were when I made the most progress.

Another solution is blogging. It has helped me retain more information and put it into action.

I guess it’s only a matter of getting into the habit of taking notes, re-reading, and blogging. But there’s always this teasing voice telling me, “what if this next book has what you’re looking for?”…

 

 

Doubts

It can be daunting to doubt your own thoughts and decisions, and other people’s actions and ideas. To doubt means to have feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something. Even when that something is proven by facts, science, and unfaulted logic.

When you chronically doubt yourself, you create a loop of low self-confidence that leads to more self-doubt. When you lack confidence in your own decision, it’s because you are afraid of making a mistake.

A great way to combat self-doubt is to experience the very thing you’re doubting. It’s in no case a quick fix, will surely take some time and efforts, and there will be plenty of challenges along the way because doubt is perceived as some kind of safety. You’ll have to remind yourself that it is okay to make mistakes because you’ll learn from them, and grow because you’ll have survive the experience.

The more experiences you create to battle your self-doubts, the more confidence you’ll build, which will also create a loop, a positive one that is.

In short, self-doubt is another fancy word for fear, and the only way to fight fear is to have the courage to face it.

 

Blame and Responsibility

There’s a huge difference between blame and responsibility. Blame doesn’t have acceptance connected to it, and it suggests that someone is at fault. What’s important to understand is that people who tend to blame will look for anything that is not in line with their rigid beliefs.

Blamers hold on to inflexible belief systems, and they feel threatened when you do things that question their small thinking.

When everyone agrees with one another on these belief systems instead of developing our thinking to consider new beliefs, we stay stuck in the inadequate belief model.

Being blamed for something makes you feel guilty. Instead of letting the feeling take hold of you, try to understand the other person’s belief, and chose to let go of the guilt by giving back what belongs to the blamer in a loving and caring way, and taking responsibility for what belongs to you.

Taking responsibility simply means you acknowledge you have not done the best you could. You know you’ve made a mistake, but you forgive yourself, and do everything you can to fix the mess you’ve made.

The compassion you use to taking responsibility gives you power, confidence, and lets you grow better beliefs. Your new beliefs will help you express positive intentions, and search for the best solution when a challenge is presented to you.

It’s hard to not blame other people, and when we do, it’s time to look at our own set of beliefs. Maybe they’re great beliefs, but they simply do not align with the other person’s beliefs. If that’s the case, understand the dichotomy, and share compassion with the person about her challenging and frustrating problem.

 

Our Default Self vs Habit Design

People rarely change their behaviour for good. Your brains tend to revert to your old ways of thinking and doing. The old pathways are still there and because they are so familiar to you, you use them when you’re not paying attention.

The habits you most recently acquired are the ones most likely to go first. The enemy of your brand new habit is your past behaviour.

There are a few things you must do if you want your new shiny habit to stick.

The behaviour you’re trying to make into a habit needs to be repeated  often, and/or must be perceives as having a high degree of utility. This means the behaviour needs to give you great pleasure, or help you avoid pain.

Indeed, a behaviour that provides minimal perceived benefit can become a habit just because you repeat it often.

Science has yet to determine the length of time it takes to form new habits. If you read it takes 21 days or 6 months to form a new habit, these are just myths that have been debunked many times already.

Habits are wonderful tools that can help you create a rich life. If you carefully plan which habits you want to establish, you’ll get more success in making your dreams come true.

Combine the formula to creating habits with frequency, perceived benefits, focus, and persistence will most definitely turn you into a master habit maker. The formula that creates habits (good or bad) is a follow:

Cue -> Behaviour -> Reward = Habit

If you think habits are boring, that you hate routines, and you think you are living your life with spontaneity now, think again. You are already living at least 40% your life through a routine. If you didn’t design the habits yourself, chances are other people — your boss, clients, marketers, spouse, children, friends, family, yogi master — have done it for you.

 

There’s no Such Thing as Time Management

Time management is not logical. It looks like it is when you put it down on paper, or on your favourite time management application, but really, time management is emotional. How you choose to spend your time is based on how you feel.

No one can manage time. Time passes. You got to deal with that fact. You can’t change it, and you can’t do anything about it. Can’t get back in the past, can’t go into the future. Only the now can be used to do/feel/say something.

So, it’s just another case of using the wrong words. Creating an extra hour a day? That’s impossible. Everybody gets 24h/day. What we’re really managing here are the things we do, the feelings we feel, and the things we say.

When I do what’s important instead of what’s urgent, I’m managing both my tasks and my feelings. Doing what’s important will make me feel proud, confident, and free. If I’m responding to urgency, I’ll get behind in my important things, and will be stressed, tired, and anxious.

That’s why I got into the habit of using an hour or two every day to do, feel, and say the important things without interruption from anyone or anything.

Instead of trying to manage time, which is impossible, I choose to manage myself, and take responsibility for the life I have created through the time I was given.

Are you trying to manage time, or do you manage yourself?

 

P.S.: May the 4th be with you!

Can this Work for me?

You hear or read something that would be empowering if only you didn’t try to find a scenario where it didn’t work. Or, someone tells you exactly how you can change something you’ve been struggling with by sharing their stories, but noooo! It wouldn’t work for you, your situation is way too different.

You do this because your focus is not at the right place. You focus on the problem. You know the problem with rich and vivid details. You can explain it with precision. This habit keeps you from focusing your time and energy on what’s important: the lesson and the solution.

When you’re in the known, even if it’s painful, you feel secure. A solution would make you go into the unknown, so you fight it. You find the one reason why it wouldn’t work, you explain it in details, instead of just trying the solution. What’s the worst that could happen if you tried it? And an even better question would be, can this work for me?

I’ve done this too often. Sometimes, because my focus was on the problem, but other times because Mrs Ego was in the way. I thought that I could solve my problem by myself without anybody’s help. Instead of trying the other person’s solution, I would shake it off using all kinds of excuses.

Have you done this, and how do you fight the urge to discard a good solution or something empowering?

 

 

Excuses

Excuses are stories you tell yourself when you’ve failed at something and you want to feel better in the moment instead of feeling the pain from the failure. When you tell yourself excuses, you aren’t learning anything.

Yes, it’s hard to admit you made a mistake, but it’s making you grow so much more if you do. The realization and self-reflection that results from staying in the moment without making any excuses is the best way to make yourself grow into a better person.

When someone uses an excuse to explain why he/she failed, you might encourage them in their story. That’s probably because you don’t want them to feel ashamed for their mistake, and instead of exposing them out, you pretend to believe their lame story.

Helping someone to realize and learn from their mistake is a hard task. But if you are true to ourself, and you practice being in the moment when you screw up, you can guide that person in doing the same thing. You have empathy, and you know it hurts, so you’re more able to help that someone through realization and growth from their own mistakes.

Excuses exempt you from your responsibilities. They give you permission to behave badly, to make more mistakes, or to repeat the same mistake over and over.

When you make up excuses, you live in a parallel universe where reality is distorted to prevent you from feeling discomfort.

Assuming your mistakes will free you from guilt, make you stronger, and will always make you a respectable person. You’ll become more humble and real.

Everyone makes up stories about why they took this decision, or made that mistake. What’s yours? How can you turn it around to tell yourself the truth?

You Give me so Much

Every day, I write in my gratitude journal. If you’d flip through the pages, you’d see that there’s a pattern, there are things that always come back. For example, the love I share with my friends and family, the opportunities to be and do so much this amazing era gives us, my fans, peace, and nature.

I limit myself to write only 5 things each day. If I didn’t, I’d probably spend the whole day writing things which I’m grateful for… I’d feel good, but not very productive because there’s so much to be grateful for!

Every day, even if I don’t write it down, I feel so lucky to have you in my life. You write me emails, send tweets and facebook messages, you comment the crazy thoughts on my blog posts, and through all of that, I can feel your love and appreciation.

So I want to take this opportunity to remind you that I’m immensely thankful for your love, words of wisdom, and for being your beautiful self. You’ve helped me grow throughout the 13 years I’ve done this wonderful job, supported me even when I didn’t believe in myself, and we’ve shared ourself in more ways than I could ever imagine.

I’m humbled and grateful to you for having showed me that most people, even strangers, can care.

Thank you so much <3