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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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!
Edward Mills, MIM, is a life coach, teacher and speaker,
empowering people to more joyfully and abundantly share their
essential gifts with the world. You can sign up for his monthly
ezine, Evolving Times, at his website: http://www.edwardmills.com
or blog: http://www.evolvingtimes.com
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