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Practice Makes Perfect?

Isn’t it funny how some sayings stick with you? I had a dance coach that always told us “Practice DOESN’T make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” His point was that if we only gave 50% at practice that’s what would come out at competition because your body and mind has muscle memory. If you did your best every time you weren’t having to try and remember the correct moves at competition because it would just come naturally. I find that this wisdom holds true for life as well.

Recently, I was listening to a podcast where they were discussing how negative thoughts and behaviors change the chemical makeup of your mind. They described it like running ruts in a dirt road and what a perfect picture for this southern girl. A fresh dirt road is flat and smooth but with storms, time and repeated use you begin carving ruts into it. Your mind works the same way. If you keep thinking the same thoughts over a period of time it can carve ruts into your mind. It becomes effortless to be hateful, negative or toxic because you’ve “driven” it so often that your tires just kind of slide into the groove. (It’s like how you get home without remembering the drive at all.) This is especially true with your inner dialogue because it isn’t being combated by the truth. In fact, telling yourself the truth will most likely require more effort on your part, meaning it can actually be easier to make yourself feel awful with lies or overthinking than to believe the truth. (Side Note: You don’t have to believe something for it to be true.)

The good news is that if your mind can run in ruts of negativity, anxiousness and hate, it can run in ruts of hope, peace and self-love but you have to practice. Believe me, I know that’s easier said than done. I was always the world’s worst at only practicing the dances I was good at because it was easy and mindless. I’d hate when my instructor would make us run certain numbers over and over because it wasn’t freeing or comfortable. I couldn’t just sail across the floor lost in the music. I actually had to think five steps ahead and be intentional. I didn’t like messing up or having to start over and it all felt very repetitive but how else was I going to improve? Practicing with your mind requires the same, not always fun, diligence. Think about it…You have to recognize your thought is toxic, make a conscientious decision to turn it around and try your best to remember the truth. Sometimes, I think it’d be easier to get me back up on my pointe shoes.

Add this to the fact that these toxic thoughts come up most often when I’m stressed or as I try to fall asleep at night and you can see why it’s so defeating. Don’t you envy those people who can fall asleep when their heads hit the pillow? My college roommate would literally fall asleep mid-sentence and I was always so jealous. Typically, as I fall to sleep my mind is whirling with ideas, plans and preparations which is fine when I’m musing over the best paint color to go with my new living room furniture. Not so great when I’m worried about little Bobby at school, the state of the Union, my bank account and getting fat. None of those issues are solvable by drowsy Bailey and let’s be honest, many of those aren’t in my power to control at all but that doesn’t make falling asleep any easier. So, why not think through all this during the day when I’m more coherent? I have a theory on that!

I used to think I was only allowed to feel tired if I did something physical that day. Ran a 5k? Cool be tired. Spent eight hours shopping? Your feet hurt. Got it! Talked to high schoolers about public service announcements? No, you didn’t even break a sweat. However, I’ve learned being mentally exhausted is a real thing and that’s when it is hardest to pull out of your ruts because you’re already so tired. Being aware of this has helped me expect those worries and prepare for them. Like, bringing Excedrin with me when I know a bad, migraine inducing storm is coming.

So what negative thoughts are eating away at you and how truthful are they? Do you actually have control over the situation? If not, try to start giving yourself grace and freedom. Every time that ugly thought rears its head, beat it back with truth, even if you don’t believe the truth. Eventually, you’ll get used to hearing and speaking reality to yourself and it won’t require as much effort. So, you see, my coach was right, practice does make permanent. After all, I can still do some of those dances from twenty years ago without much thought, but with a lot more IcyHot.

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