Every moment we become ourselves. No matter what factors control this process, it is happening. Every decision and every moment are practice and preparation for the person you are to become. Nothing is set in stone. Nothing is pre-destined. Every aspect of the person you want to become is simply a skill to be developed and honed.
I first explored this idea in the context of fitness and strength training. Strength athletes tend to obsess over specifics: workout days and times, rep schemes, percentages, rest times, de-loads, diets, etc. I will never discount the efficacy of any specific strength program. All programs prove effective if the athletes actually adheres to the regimen. Commitment and consistency (read: practice) then prove the strongest determining factor for success. Strip away the specific protocols from any elite strength coach’s program and you find two universals:
Lift Often - Consistency is the most important factor to success.
Lift Well - Maintain a mindful commitment to form and proficiency. Perform every movement to the best of your ability with a constant focus on maintaining and improving your form.
This process extends far beyond the field of strength training. These two human universals define the path to any effective change in our lives. We can characterize anything as simply an acquired skill. Practice makes anything possible.
To gain physical strength we do not need to understand the specific program details or physiological processes involved. We need only to understand that strength in a specific movement or lift can be addressed like a skill. Proficiency and progress require only consistent, quality practice. Strength follows time and effort investments.
Expand this paradigm outward. All qualities are possible through practice. Call to mind the “healthiest” or “happiest” person you know. They did not arrive on this Earth in their current form. All of their healthiest qualities - their dietary, movement, sleep, and emotional patterns - were cultivated and remain under constant maintenance. Simply put, they practice being a healthy person. They understand that they can create and reinforce any new behavior. They know that we are all a product of our choices. They understand that consistent practice defines the only road to the qualities they want to see blossom in themselves.
This traits-as-skills model means that changes come slowly. No one simply decides to embody a new quality and thus becomes it. You have to put in the reps. Do not feel discouraged in the thought that there are no easy changes. Allow the thought that any change is possible through consistent practice to uplift and motivate you. The change process is simple (not easy, but simple) and universal: practice.
The best writers consistently put their ass in the chair.
The most capable athletes and movers practice constantly with a dedicated attention to their movement quality.
The shrewdest investors follow a systematic approach and remain ever conscious of the outcome of each decision.
The cleanest eaters make consistent healthy decisions until their patterns become deeply ingrained.
The most grateful, empathic people became so through a consistent gratitude practice.
I like to imagine every decision as placing repetitions in a backpack that we carry with us. When challenging circumstances test us we reach into our bag and draw a single instance from our practiced experiences. The next time you attempt a max lift, what type of repetition will you draw? The next time your patience and grace are tested, what type of practiced response will surface? The next time you are presented with unhealthy nutritional choices, what type of developed pattern will you follow?
Practice your values in every moment and stack your deck with positive choices and patterns. Understand that you are constantly becoming your future self. Every moment is an opportunity to write your story. You can embody any quality you wish to possess through practice.
Success is grown, not born. Practice.