A lot of the best lessons that I’ve learned about life, I’ve learned from rockclimbing. When I first got into indoor rock climbing, it was through six classes, meeting every Tuesday, at Planet Granite, and our instructor was Kris, in case she’s still teaching there. She is an incredible instructor. She’s a young rock climber, and she climbs wonderfully. Our class was six women, and the best part about it is that we worked on one new technique every week.
That’s it. One new technique. This means that we learned six new techniques. All those are still the basics of what I use to climb today. It is my favorite way to learn anything: one habit at a time.
You could try to learn two at a time, but then one of the things your mind becomes engaged in is monitoring the transitions, “Am I climbing close enough to the wall? Oh, I forgot – am I using quiet hands? Oh, close enough to the wall? … Quiet hands?” Just the mental switching from thought to thought can make you less effective in addressing either new habit.
Like I was telling a friend recently in an email, the best thing I can do for myself when I’m going for a run is to think only about the running (the running, my breathing, the road, but really only about the run itself). Once my mind starts to wander and think about work or friends, I physically find myself slowing down and sometimes stopping! One thing at a time.
Daniel Gilbert in his Stumbling on Happiness says a similar thing – the mind can either imagine something visually or it can observe something visually – it does not do both at the same time because the brain uses the same wiring to IMAGINE seeing as something as it uses in actually SEEING something. So, if you’re running, and start to picture an issue at work that you’re working on resolving, then your mind starts to IMAGINE the work issue in all its details, and STOPS SEEING IN YOUR MIND the road, seeing your lungs getting healthier, seeing your fast-paced stride.
The mind is a powerful motivator of the body. This is one of the benefits many people that meditate regularly give about their meditation – that just learning to focus on one thing is initially difficult and incredibly rewarding as a feeling.
Finally, Ben Franklin in his life worked on changing fifteen of his habits, including temperance (moderation in food and drink), laziness, organization, etc. Franklin addressed one habit per week. His goal was to be impeccable in that habit in that week, and to ignore the other habits during that week. he succeeded in going through all fifteen habits in fifteen weeks, and then he started them right up again for the following fifteen weeks. But again, one at a time. Focus.
One thing at a time. Simplicity. Making it easy. Making winning easy. If I were Mr. Miyagi, I would end this post with “wax on, wax off.”