There was that time I took up a new hobby. We had recently moved back to our old hometown, after living away for 14 years. I though it would be a good idea to have an activity that I could do with girlfriends, (besides drinking coffee and supervising play dates) After some thought, I settled on Tennis.
Tennis, I decided would be fun because there were all sorts of local tennis leagues for women. It had been many years since I picked up a racket, so I enrolled in tennis lessons.
The lessons were not what I expected. The instructor insisted that she didn’t teach tennis, She taught habits. I thought I signed up for the wrong class, but I was in fact in tennis 101.
Ms. Tennis Pro explained, that good tennis skills were nothing more than consistent habits. I didn’t quite get it at first. But she kept insisting that I needed to consistently hit the ball in a certain way. I spent weeks just hitting balls off-the-wall to get the motions to become a habit. Then I graduated to hitting to over the net. I didn’t even play a game until the last class.
Over and over I practiced forehand and backhand shots. Sometimes the ball was hit well, and other times I missed. Gradually I improved.
I continued to play tennis for 14 years, and those habits came in handy, yet there were times when I didn’t execute them well.
One of my later tennis instructors was all about mindfulness. Again I was confused about his teaching methods. (In the early 90s ‘mindfulness’ was not yet a popular topic) This time the pro explained that tennis players have to anticipate (be mindful) of how the ball is going to come over the net. Then we must decide ahead of time how we are going to hit the shot.
Both of those tennis pros made a big impact on my tennis game. I did improve, but not overnight. As the years went by, I found myself applying habits and mindfulness to other ways.
Most remarkably, I used habits and mindfulness to make a lifestyle switch from chronic dieting to eating for healthy living.
Just like on the tennis courts, I applied consistent habits and mindfulness (anticipation) to healthy eating. And just like in tennis, the improvements were gradual.
I accepted that gradually learning a new behavior, as in a backhand shot or eating in social situations, is not a bad thing. It is a lifestyle improvement.
Unexpectedly, I noticed another perk.
I stopped thinking about food all the time. I became more relaxed in restaurants. The habits and mindfulness took time for me to learn. But I so enjoy the freedom of not dieting, and yet I maintain a responsible (mindful) approach. Read more about food “Freedom and Responsibility in a previous blog post here.
Next up on my habit and mindfulness gig: golf!
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