The importance of adopting proper habits is crucial in the process of achieving any goal!
As we all already know, in sport (life, school or anything else we do) in order to get to certain point where we want to be from where we are now, we need to be able to bridge the gap between the two.
Bridging that gap very often means stepping bravely through the gap and tackling countless challenges that might come along the way, some expected and some unexpected, some hard and some even harder.
Not being yet “there” where we want to be is something that can be scary, frustrating and challenging to go through from time to time along the way. The thing that can help us endure through those challenging times is strong and clear vision of our goal and vision of who we want to become in order to accomplish that goal.
In order to do this most efficiently, first we need to set a goal, or several goals.
Once we set our goal, very important thing that can help us in accomplishing it is the knowledge about the importance of adopting proper habits.
Habits make actions and outcome predictable. Habits make it possible for the body and brain to run on autopilot mode, which enables you to carry on doing tasks accurately, quickly and without conscious thought.
The autopilot mode makes it much easier for the body to tackle any given situation or circumstance. When the body is on autopilot, you can perform great regardless of the environment you are put in. This becomes very important especially if you are competing at the highest level.
An interesting story about the importance of adopting proper habits comes from the former swimmer Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman. Michael is one of the most successful Olympian athletes of all time. He has won countless medals in multiple swim categories and he is still holding several world records, even though he has retired.
His swimming coach Bob said several times that he knew Michael could become great swimmer, but to become a champion, he needed to adopt certain habits that would make him the strongest mental swimmer in the pool.
Here is an interesting part from the book “The power of habit”, by Charles Duhigg:
Bob didn’t need to control every aspect of Phelp’s life. All he needed to do was to target a few specific habits that had nothing to do with swimming and everything to do with creating the right mind-set.
He designed a series of behaviors that Phelps could use to become calm and focused before each race, to find those tiny advantages that, in a sport where victory can come in milliseconds, would make all the difference.
When Phelps was a teenager, for instance, at the end of each practice, Bowman would tell him to go home and “watch the videotape. Watch it before you go to sleep and when you wake up.”
The videotape wasn’t real. Rather, it was a mental visualization of the perfect race. Each night before falling asleep and each morning after waking up, Phelps would imagine himself jumping off the blocks and, in slow motion, swimming flawlessly. Then he would visualize his strokes, the walls of the pool, his turns, and the finish. Michael would lie in bed with his eyes shut and watch the entire competition, the smallest details, again and again, until he knew each second by heart.
He had done this so many times in his head that, by now, it felt rote. But it worked. He got faster and faster.
Once Bowman established a few core routines in Phelp’s life, all the other habits – his diet and practice schedules, the stretching and sleep routines – seemed to fall into place on their own. At the core of why those habits were so effective, why they acted as keystone habits, was something known within academic literature as a “small win”.
Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.
Once a small win has has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.
Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.
As Bowman told: “We figured out it was best to concentrate on these tiny moments of success and build them into mental triggers. We worked them into a routine. There’s a series of things we do before every race that are designed to give Michael a sense of building victory.
If you were to ask Michael what’s going on in his head before competition, he would say he’s not really thinking about anything. He’s just following the program. But that’s not right. It’s more like his habits have taken over. When the race arrives, he’s more than halfway through his plan and he’s been victorious at every step. All the stretches went like he planned. The warm-up laps were just like he visualized. His headphones are playing exactly what he expected. The actual race is just another step in a pattern that started earlier that day and has been nothing but victories. Winning is a natural extension.
The most fascinating result of the importance of adopting proper habits and being able to practice something long enough is that you can literally program your brain for the best possible performance.
So then, on the day of the game, you can clear your mind and your body and have trust that they will do exactly what you have been practicing countless times before.