Friday, June 18, 2010

Practicing your new normal

Cal Ripken (at least I think it was Cal) "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."

Whoever it was, I think this statement is important. Any time you do a behavior, you reinforce that behavioral pattern, and with time, that becomes your "new normal."

We can use this to our advantage. In Brian Wansink's brilliant book "Mindless Eating," he shows how most people eat according to scripts, rather than because they are hungry. They eat because that's what they do when they come home from work, or that's what they do when they are stressed, or that's what they do when watching a football game, etc. Those scripts are what is normal for you. But you can create a "new normal." Instead of eating something when you come home from work, you can play catch with your son as soon as you come home. Instead of eating when you are stressed, you can make a point of calling your mom and letting her know she is important to you. You can replace a maladaptive habit with a healthier habit- you can create a new normal.

I once heard an interview with Tom Arnold where he made a similar point. He was a co-star in "True Lies" with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom asked Arnold for advice on how to look buff for the movie. Arnold advised him to just practice walking with his stomach sucked in, and over time his posture and abdominal tone would improve. And it worked. It's a great pearl that can help prove abdominal tone, and is an example of "practicing your new normal."

This applies in other aspect of life. I've often heard the advice that you should not dress for the job you have, but the job you want to have. While I don't follow this pearl myself (I wear both polo shirts and sportcoat and tie at work, but I wear polos more often), but the idea makes sense- the best way to earn a job is start acting the part to confirm you are ready.

The main point I want to make, though, is in regards to posture. Whenever you sit or stand, whether you think of it not, you are "practicing" your posture. This is especially true with older individuals. Many older adults walk with a slumped posture, and are practicing bending at their waist, curving their shoulders, and sticking out their neck. This is reversible, however. There are some very good exercises that can, with practice, improve your posture, which can help your appearance, improve neck and back pain, and make you feel more vibrant and energetic.

It feels odd at first, but it's all about practicing your "new normal."

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