Aristotle once quipped, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” We get rewarded in public for what we repeatedly do in the dark. One of the hallmarks of high-achieving people is that they are usually the hardest workers in the room; they go the extra mile, sweat the small stuff and stay consistently self-disciplined on the path to achieving their goals. As the saying goes, How you do one thing is how you do almost everything. The self-discipline required to repeat reps, laps, drills and sessions in the gym is required to study for an exam, build a business, or follow through on a commitment. Overnight success usually takes 10 years of consistently working on your craft, becoming a better version of yourself, making daily progress and trusting the process.
The Power of Reps
I can attest to the power of repetition in the daily improvement that I am experiencing in my wellness plan. I spend an average of 2-3 hours daily exercising. I start my exercise regimen daily with swimming laps, then go for basketball shooting drills and running for 30 minutes on the treadmill during cold months or 1 hour during the summer months. I repeat almost the same drills and laps every session, becoming muscle memory activities as the day passes. I am not where I want to be in most of these activities, but I am not where I used to be. The daily consistent practice and repetition are adding up, and I notice the improvement with time. It can be frustrating shooting the basketball during drills, and they are not entering the net, but with patience, perseverance and commitment, it is going to get smoother. As the saying goes, “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. We play the way we train; if you can’t do it in training, it is going to be hard to execute when it is showtime.
The above image shows my exercise training regimen for the month of July. I was in the gym for 108 hours, and I exercised for 31 days straight, covering 809 KM in the process. It takes a lot of dedication, self-discipline and commitment to pull this through. Have the end in mind, start with why, trust the process and be patient with yourself.
Coach John Wooden had a 620-147 record during his 27-year tenure as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins. He led the team to ten NCAA national championships, seven of them in consecutive years, and had four undefeated seasons, including an 88-game winning streak. In his book, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court 1,
Coach Wooden writes about one of the keys to the team’s success: Attention to detail and repetition of drills. He writes:
The attention to detail meant players would move quickly from one drill to another. We didn’t achieve conditioning by doing laps or running up and down stairs or doing push-ups. We did it through the efficient and intense execution of individual fundamental drills. A shooting drill was a conditioning drill the way I ran it. There was no standing around and just watching or resting in between. The players were always working and running and moving. “Move! Move! Move! Up, back, up, back, move. Quickly, hurry up!” A player who wasn’t running in a scrimmage would shoot free throws until he had made ten in a row and then would go into the scrimmage while someone else came out to shoot free throws.
Everyone wanted to be scrimmaging, so players put tremendous pressure on themselves to make free throws and worked intensely while they participated in the scrimmage. “Move! Move! Move!” No resting. No standing around. No idle chatter. Your responsibility begins each afternoon when practice ends, because you can tear down more between practices than we can possibly build up during practices. So please practice moderation in what you do. But it all began with attention to, and perfection of, details. Details. Details.
In Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life 2, Former Action movie star and politician Arnold Schwarzenegger shares seven life principles that have helped him become one of the most recognizable faces in the world and the secret to his extraordinary achievement. One of the tools that helped Arnold become successful in his various careers and life endeavours is the power of repetition. He writes:
The whole point of doing lots of reps is to give you a base that makes you stronger and more resistant to silly, unfortunate mistakes, whatever that means for you. The goal is to increase the load you’re able to handle so that when it’s time to do the work that matters—the stuff that people see and remember—you don’t have to think about whether you can do it. You just do it. That all falls apart if you don’t take the time to do things the right way. If you half-ass your reps and fail to pay attention to the details, the base you’re building will be unstable and unreliable.
It’s why in firearms training they say “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” It’s why first responder types, like paramedics and firefighters, train obsessively and practice the fundamentals of their jobs over and over again until it becomes second nature for them. It’s so that when the shit hits the fan and the unexpected happens—which it always does—they don’t have to think about the run-of-the-mill, life-saving parts of their work, and they can use that little bit of extra mental space to deal with the situations they’ve never seen before without wasting precious seconds.
If you’re a sports fan, that’s very similar to what it’s like watching the best footballers, basketball players, hockey players, and ski racers practice their craft and then perform on the biggest stages. There are hours and hours of monotonous shooting drills every week. There are miles of skating and skiing and running focused on footwork, change of direction, balance, and shifting body weight. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of reps of dribbling and passing drills baked into every practice.
In her memoir, Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory 3, American long-distance runner, Deena Kastor writes about one of the favourite sayings of her coach – “Repetitio mater studiorum est: repetition is the mother of learning.” Coach Vigil spoke about the athlete’s lifestyle and the need to continuously repeat routines.
Deena writes about how the repetitions helped her in achieving her running goals.
“Sometimes Coach saw the I-don’t-think-so look on my face before the last mile repeat and said, “Repetitio mater studiorum est”—repetition is the mother of learning. Repetition of speed built power. Repetition of miles built endurance. So I launched into the repeat with that perspective, running hard, and finishing the mile a few seconds faster than the week before.”
- Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt – Worry
- It takes a concerted effort to let go of distractions and concerns. We keep playing thoughts over and over, it doesn’t matter if they are healthy or even accurate. Our automatic stream of consciousness: We get pulled into worry and it is up to us to notice that happening, so we can pull ourselves back. Otherwise, our worry and ruminations become a soundtrack of our lives.
- Nearly everyone worries occasionally and worry is a normal response to problems and the unknown. There are productive and non-productive worries. If we are identifying problems and using effective problem-solving strategies that is productive worrying. But if worrying is a way of coping with problems that we can’t change, that is unproductive worry.
- The way worry works is that a thought pops into our minds, and quickly escalates into a whole storyline. We play out hypothetical scenarios in our imagination often in the form of a what-if question. Because we can’t actually know the future, we try to create one in our mind to feel like we have some sought of control over it. Just like anything else, if you worry often enough; it becomes a habit. Worried thoughts become a hard-wired pattern in the mind, so when problems arise; rather than observing them calmly and objectively, we fall into habitual worrying. This can interfere with sleep, concentration, and our general well-being.
- Daily Jay with Jay Shetty – Ingratitude
- It is not always easy to stay in gratitude but when it gets hard, we might beat ourselves up for feeling that way. So we stretch to find anything to be grateful for.
- In her article titled: It’s OK Not to Feel Grateful Right Now, Sarah Epstein LMFT, observed that gratitude is great, but not when it is guilt-induced. Guilt-induced gratitude occurs when you force yourself to be thankful. Saying how you should feel, comparing your circumstances to others who have it worse, and suppressing your negative feelings because you don’t feel you are entitled to them are examples of guilt-induced gratitude.
- Healthy gratitude comes from what you genuinely feel, it is separate from other people’s expectations, and experiences, free of judgment of yourself and others. Gratitude does not come naturally to all of us, so it might take a little effort or focus to build that muscle and it is valuable to put your circumstances into perspective, to look at things from a different angle with the goal of finding something to be grateful for and appreciate.
- Deep Life Stack 2.0 To Reinvent Yourself: How To Master Productivity & Find Purpose | Cal Newport
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.