Tips for Improving Over the Fall / Winter

Thought it was about time to start talking about fall / winter practice. I know for most of us it is time we are inside, and when inside, some of us try to figure out ways to practice to get ready for the spring.

Before we get into any details – wanted to review a little about practice (especially when working on new habits over the fall / winter).

It is essentially impossible to break bad habits (our mind/body is not set up that way) … but we are set up to be able to create new habits and ultimately make changes/create new movements, etc.  we want.

Sustaining Progress

Developing your skills (and talent) is like taking a cross-country hike. You will encounter challenges, you will hit snags, plateaus and steep paths; motivation will ebb and flow. To sustain progress, it’s necessary to be FLEXIBLE one moment and STUBBORN the next, to deal with immediate obstacles while staying focused on the horizon (or your ultimate goals).

Don’t Waste Time Trying to Break Bad Habits – Instead Build New Ones

I bet I talk about this so many times in our schools, many of our students probably get “sick” of hearing it.

When it comes to dealing with bad habits, many of us attack the problem head-on, by trying to break the habit. This tactic, of course, doesn’t work. And we are left with the old truth – habits are tough (if not impossible) to break.  The blame lies with our brains.  While we are really good at building circuits (creating habits), we are awful at quitting them. Trying as you might to break a bad habit, it is still there, waiting patiently for a chance to be used.

So, what do we do?

The solution is to ignore the bad habit and put your energy toward building a new habit that will override the old/bad habit.

To build new habits, start slowly. Expect to feel stupid, clumsy, uncomfortable, and even frustrated at first…. after all, the new “wires” in your brain haven’t been built yet. Your brain still wants to follow the old “comfortable” pattern. Build the new habit by gradually increasing the difficulty, little by little. It takes time, but it’s the ONLY way new habits are created and grow.

To Learn It More Deeply, Teach It

Here is the issue. Every good golfer, every golfer who learns something new/reaches a goal, etc… must be their own best teacher. If you cannot teach yourself, your ability to make changes, create new habits, reach goals, etc… will occur in a much slower rate.

This is not saying you must create everything yourself, but it is saying you must take what you learn and translate into self-teaching.

Think about it – how much time to you spend practicing, and how much of that practice time is with someone teaching you?

If you are like most, 90% + of your practice time is on your own, trying to create new habits, etc… on your own. Meaning, you must be able to make sure you are doing things correct, must be able to make sure you are “going down the correct path”.

A great way to determine if you can teach yourself it ask yourself “Could I teach this (new habit I am trying to learn) to someone else?”

This works because when you communicate a skill to someone, you come to understand it more deeply yourself. Also, when you see someone struggle, and help them through it, you improve your ability to deal with your own struggles.

The saying “Those who can’t do, teach” should be rewritten as “Doers who teach do better!”

Give a New Skill a Minimum of Eight Weeks

When it comes to growing/creating/developing new skills, eight weeks seems to be an important threshold. It’s the length of many top-level training programs around the world, from the Navy SEAL’s physical – conditioning program to the mission training for the Mercury astronauts. A recent study at Massachusetts General Hospital showed the practicing meditation for twenty-seven minutes a day created lasting brain changes in (you guessed it) eight weeks.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can be proficient in any skill in eight weeks. Rather, it underlines two more basic points:

1)  Constructing and honing new habits takes time, no matter who you are, and

2) Resilience and grit are vital tools, particularly in the early stages of learning. Don’t make judgements too early.

Keep at it, even if you don’t feel immediate improvement. Give your talent (your brain) the time it needs to grow and create new habits.

Please watch upcoming etips for more fall / winter practice tips.

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