“Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent” is one of my favourite quotes ever by Kelly Starrett. Why? Because, in principle, is true in so many aspects of life.
In Starrett’s area of expertise (mobility), this applies to movement patterns that we develop as a result of doing the same thing over and over again, which can lead to injury when not performed correctly. This same principle can be applied to music, sports, language, diet, etc. In Buddhism, karma is sometimes explained as the result of habits; the more we repeat a particular behaviour, the more likely we are to fall in either a vicious or virtuous cycle with corresponding consequences.
Patterns in diet
As mentioned before, this also applies to diet. Our dietary patterns (breakfast/lunch/dinner) are, in part, a result of habits, as it is eating at the same time every day. Same with our taste preferences. Some of us practice (or get conditioned to) favouring sweet things at breakfast. Some of us are used to finishing all our meals despite not being hungry because that’s the way we were raised.
Not so permanent
Repetitive behaviours (and movement patterns) are difficult to change but not impossible. Granted, it is easier for some people than for others. It is important to know yourself and what drives you to action (for example, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework is a useful tool to understand how we respond to inner and outer expectations).
Steps for change
- Know yourself and the strategies that work for you. Do this quiz. Figure out whether you’re a moderator or an abstainer.
- Identify which behaviours have become habits that are working against your goals. You might need someone else to identify these for you: a coach, a physiotherapist, a dietitian (wink, wink), someone who knows how to spot “incorrect technique”.
- Pick your battles. We can’t do everything we want. Often times, if we try to change too many things at once, we fail miserably. Identify the one change that will bring the most benefit and practice doing it the right way every day, until it becomes second nature.
Remember changes don’t have to be big. More often than not, it’s the little things that hold us down. For example, the changes below can have a huge impact in our wellbeing:
- Drink more water
- Get some sunshine every day
- Spend less time on social media
- Meditate for 5-15 minutes every day`
- Go to bed earlier
- Go for a walk after lunch
- Eat more vegetables
- Cook X meals every week
- Snack less
- Eat with friends or family at least once a week