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Mental Muscle Memory

When I was actively training at​ the​ Karate Dojo,​ every workout included time spent repeating individual techniques over and over and over and . . . well you​ get the​ idea. We would stand in​ a​ circle and count off by tens and twenties,​ punches,​ chops and kicks,​ as​ the​ Sensei and senior students came around correcting our form. During one of​ these sessions,​ a​ senior student explained the​ concept of​ Muscle Memory and why it​ is​ important to​ repeat the​ movement so many times.

Muscle Memory,​ or,​ if​ you​ like technical terms,​ Neuromuscular Facilitation,​ occurs when you​ have repeated an​ action enough times to​ have etched the​ pattern into your brain. the​ action becomes automatic,​ requiring no conscious input on​ your part.

Neuromuscular Facilitation or​ Muscle Memory allows you​ to​ walk,​ get dressed,​ tie your shoes and start the​ car without thinking.

Many,​ if​ not most of​ the​ activities in​ our daily lives are run by Muscle Memory. This is​ usually a​ good thing. But what if​ the​ pattern is​ holding us back or​ contributing to​ poor health. For instance,​ what about a​ muscle memory that causes you​ to​ slouch or​ clench your jaw when you’re tense?

If you​ golf,​ you​ know that a​ Muscle Memory that causes you​ to​ slice your drives is​ extremely difficult to​ shift. it​ involves coaching,​ constant awareness,​ and lots of​ repetition to​ break that original,​ inefficient pattern and create a​ new,​ more beneficial pattern.

The same is​ true with our thoughts. How many habitual thought patterns do you​ have that hold you​ back? I call these patterns Mental Muscle Memories or​ MMMs. Here are just a​ few common Mental Muscle Memories that hold people back from success and contentment:

• Negative thoughts such as: I can’t do it,​ I’m not smart enough,​ I don’t have the​ money,​ I’m not attractive.

• Inefficient patterns including: Procrastination,​ consistent tardiness,​ working under stress,​ disorganization,​ lack of​ focus.

• Faulty beliefs like: you​ can’t make a​ living doing what you​ love. you​ have to​ do it​ alone. in​ order to​ win,​ someone has to​ lose.

All of​ these thoughts,​ patterns and beliefs are learned,​ usually at​ a​ very young age,​ and become MMMs that FEEL true. in​ other words,​ they seem so integral to​ who you​ are that you​ cannot imagine yourself without them.

So how do you​ shift these patterns? Here are a​ few techniques that can help shift MMMs:

• Acknowledgement and Acceptance: Obviously you​ have to​ acknowledge the​ pattern to​ begin shifting it. But,​ while it​ may seem counterintuitive,​ you​ also need to​ accept the​ negative pattern in​ order to​ begin the​ shift. Acceptance brings patience and compassion for yourself during the​ transformation process. It’s sort of​ like a​ 12-step program,​ “Hi my name is​ Edward and I’m a​ web surfaholic.” Once you​ acknowledge it​ you​ open the​ door for consciousness and choice to​ enter into the​ pattern.

• Coaching/Mentoring: This can involve a​ relationship with a​ professional coach,​ a​ mentor,​ a​ trusted friend (co-coaching) or​ your own inner wisdom (self-coaching). When I was in​ college,​ a​ friend and I noticed that we both used “like” far too often in​ our speech,​ as​ in,​ “Like,​ what do you​ mean,​ you​ don’t,​ like,​ want to​ skip class.” We decided to​ “coach” each other. Whenever we noticed the​ other person using “like” in​ its non-dictionary usage,​ we would punch their shoulder (lightly!). it​ worked. We both stopped using “like” within a​ month. One caveat here: make sure that anyone you​ enlist to​ help coach you​ is​ truly interested in​ helping you​ shift out of​ the​ old pattern. Sometimes the​ people who love us the​ most don’t want to​ see us change.

• Logic: For you​ left-brained folks out there,​ sometimes,​ pure old reasoning works wonders. Let’s say you​ have a​ belief that you​ can’t make a​ living doing what you​ love. Ask yourself,​ is​ it​ true? Can you​ think of​ anyone who DOES make a​ living doing what they love? I bet you​ can. Once you​ find examples that disprove the​ belief embedded in​ your old Mental Muscle Memory,​ you​ can begin looking to​ those examples each time you​ feel that old believe come up.

• Affirmations: I know,​ affirmations got a​ bad rap thanks to​ Stuart Smalley and Saturday Night Live. (If you’re not of​ the​ SNL generation,​ then nevermind!) But affirmations work! They begin to​ shift the​ neural programming by replacing the​ negative belief or​ pattern with a​ positive belief or​ pattern or​ your choice. Here’s an​ example you​ could use to​ shift that old work/love MMM:

In an​ easy and graceful manner
In a​ healthy and joyous way
In its own perfect time
And in​ the​ highest good of​ all
I am now Being my True Self and Doing What I Love in​ order to​ create all the​ money required to​ live comfortably and securely.

You can use any or​ all of​ these techniques,​ or​ make up your own. Whatever method you​ choose to​ shift your old patterns and beliefs,​ repetition is​ the​ key. if​ you’re a​ tennis player and want to​ improve your serve,​ what do you​ do? you​ have someone coach you​ on​ the​ most effective technique and then you​ go out and practice your serve. Over and over and over. if​ you​ spent one-hour a​ day for 30-days practicing your serve do you​ think you​ would see some improvement? you​ bet.

It’s the​ same with Mental Muscle Memory. Practice really does make perfect. So get out there and start practicing!

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