Practice, practice, practice!

I’ve been working with a couple of clients lately, who have issues in their lives (who doesn’t?), and they somehow expect that a few sessions with me will just fix everything. I do help — I walk my clients through processes that lessen the hold of the past — and as a coach, I give them homework. The homework is important, just like it was in school. You have to learn to do something yourself in order to make it yours, in order to have a lasting effect on your own life.You have to create something new to replace what used to be there.I’m sure you’ve heard the old joke:

A man is walking down 7th Ave. in Manhattan, and stops a stranger, obviously local, to ask, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

The stranger replies with a smile, “Practice, practice, practice!”

It’s like that for everything else in life, too. Research shows that the difference between a good musician, who graduates conservatory to teach music, and a great one, who goes on to solo in a major orchestra, is simply how much the musician practices. The good musician has practiced less than 5,000 hours in his or her lifetime; the great one has practiced over 10,000 hours. Talent only goes so far.

It’s true in sports, too. Larry Bird, the famous basketball player, grew excellent at scoring baskets by shooting thousands upon thousands of shots — by himself, after everyone else had gone home.

Practice is necessary for the creation of habits, too, whether those are physical habits, like exercise, or emotional habits, like serenity. Those habits create the quality of your life. If you have bad habits, like being a couch potato or worrying, which you created and practiced without any conscious awareness, then you can change the habits to better ones to create a happier, healthier life in the long run.

You create a habit by having a cue (aka a trigger), an action (the habit) and a reward — and then by using the cue and the reward to motivate your practice, until the habit happens automatically. If you want to walk every morning before you do anything else, you need a cue to remind you, like putting your sneakers by the side of the bed, where you can’t miss them. Then you have to actually go walk. At first, you may need to promise yourself some sort of reward, like 10 minutes to do nothing when you get back, or something else small that you can do right away, and do regularly. If you do this for a while, you’ll eventually begin to notice that your body wants to walk when you get up, that you feel so much better when you do that you no longer need the reward — or even the cue. This is when you’ll know you’ve created a new habit.

That said, here are some really good habits everyone should have:

Both have been shown, in thousands of studies, to improve everything from depression and anxiety to heart disease and diabetes. (Click on words above for links to research.)

In order to make these work for you, you have to find something you like to do. Hate to run? Try walking. Hate to walk? Try swimming. Hate to swim? Play golf — but walk between the holes and carry your own bag. You get the idea.

It’s like this for mediation, too. Don’t like to sit when you meditate? Lie down (just make sure you are uncomfortable enough to stay awake.) Don’t like to lie? Walk — or run, and clear your mind while you do it. Here are a bunch of ideas on meditation — some of them may surprise you.

Pick a type of exercise, a type of meditation, and then pick regular times and places for them. You can even do them simultaneously! Set up cues so you remember to do these things. Set up rewards for doing them. Keep tweaking till you’ve created something you can sustain — a new, positive habit. See how the rest of your life improves!

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (www.888-4-hollis.com), who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.