What We Practice Becomes Stronger

Guest article from truenorthteentherapylouisville.com

We see this all the time. People workout with weights and they grow stronger. We teach teen-athletes the 10,000-hour rule: If you want to become great (strong) at something, you have to practice it 10,000 hours.

What we practice becomes stronger.

As a therapist, I see it. People come to me for help to change the things that they’ve been practicing for many years. They’ve been practicing thoughts for many years and those thoughts have become stronger thoughts. They’ve been practicing behaviors for decades and those behaviors have become entrenched habits.

What we practice becomes stronger.   

I discovered this concept while studying mindfulness. Maybe a more potent version of it is, “What we practice, we become.” It certainly speaks to the potential that we all have for change. Neuroscientists have discovered that the more we practice certain things (thoughts), it actually rewires the brain. It’s called neuroplasticity. The adage is: Neurons that fire together, wire together. This means that if you practice negative thoughts, it rewires your brain and those thoughts grow stronger. Conversely, if you practice positive thoughts, those thoughts grow stronger.

What we practice, we become.

What do you want to become? I have an Emerson quote in my workout room. It goes like this, “The only person that you are destined to become is the person you decide to become.”

I prefer to say that you are destined to become the person that you practice becoming.

Maybe the better question is, what are you practicing? It is not in my nature to be organized. I’m a “P” on the Keirsey Inventory Sorter. That means that I prefer unstructured time. I dislike living according to a schedule. But for these past 40 years, I have practiced organizational skills. I sit down at my computer once a week and put together a schedule for the next week. I have read hundreds of books on planning and organizing.

What I’ve practiced has grown stronger. What I’ve practiced, I’ve become.

I am by nature a positive person. Every now and then, however, negative thoughts about people, places, or things creep into my mind.

If I start “practicing” these thoughts, they will grow stronger.  

Do you want to be more compassionate toward yourself and others? Begin practicing compassion toward yourself and others. Begin now and say this quietly, “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free from suffering.” Imagine someone that you find difficult to love. Quietly say this, “May you find peace, may you be safe, may you live at ease.”

Practice compassion toward others and yourself and you will become a compassionate person.

A number of years ago, I worked with a gentleman with a serious brain injury. He struggled with depression. I remember asking him one day, “Mark, what do you see people doing that aren’t depressed?” He had no difficulty coming up with a lengthy list of things they practiced in their lives. We worked together on a list of things that he had practiced before his brain injury and then developed a simple strategy for slowly putting some of them into his life.

He began practicing these things and he grew stronger. He became a happier person.

In your mind’s eye, imagine your future self. What do you need to practice in order to become that person?

What you practice grows stronger. What you practice, you become.