Not only does repetition help root a practice more firmly in our neurology; repetitive actions change us over time.
Think of the long-term results from 2 common practices - cardio exercise and mindfulness meditation. As a result of a long-term cardio exercise:
- Your resting heart rate decreases.
- You develop more red blood cells, improving your ability to transport oxygen to your muscles.
- You boost your capacity to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen in your lungs.
And, a long-term meditation practice:
- Improves concentration and attention
- Improves emotional stability and response to stress
I can testify to the truth of this in my own physical and spiritual exercises, and in my other daily exercise - photography. Yes, on a daily basis I may feel more relaxed, more energetic, more centered. But, not every day. Yet, years later I can report:
- I climb up the 3-story escalator with ease
- I am much less reactive to my triggers
- My sense of composition, and ability to “spot” a picture, has sharpened
Repetition changes us, whether or not we’re happy with our daily efforts. Sure, we have days when we can report, “That was a great run”; or, “I went really deep during that 20 minute sit.” But, on other days, we may feel unsuccessful as we attempt to just watch our thoughts; or, our run time was not up to our usual standard.
Such judgments can lead to disheartenment, or, worse, to abandonment of our routine. This is when a change of mindset is so helpful – doing for the sake of doing, rather than doing for the sake of success. This is not to dissuade you from setting goals, but, rather to encourage a longer view.
The doing changes us, a bit each day. So, keep doing.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle