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Habit is the opposite of Fear

a line of military personnel

Muscle memory makes no mistakes.

I grew up across the street from an Army Depot. My civilian mother worked for the military and my friends were army brats. My friends and I would sneak around the depot and “spy” on the new recruits as they ran their drills. As an adult, I’ve kept in contact with some of those friends and other military members in various ways via charities and outreach. A lot of wisdom was hidden in those drills. The military has interesting life hacks we can apply to our own lives.

One of the life hacks the US Army knows about is “muscle memory.” A strongly ingrained habit squashes second-guessing. Drills, over and over, creates the muscle memory necessary in combat situations. The more muscle memory a combat officer retains, the more effective she is. It’s a “Do, don’t think” approach and it’s what gets the job done.

Being creative like a writer has to be on a daily basis is not like combat, of course. It is its own type of stress, though, and many people struggle with self-doubt and fear when faced with the task of creating something original. This is where writers can learn a bit from the armed forces. Courage is not the opposite of fear. Habit is."The difference between an amateur and a professional is their habits. All amateurs have amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones."

When you hear writers speak about “butt-in-chair” they are referring to the habit of sitting down to write every day. No excuses. Just do it. Get used to doing it by repeating the same action over and over. Soon, the habit of writing will suppress the fear of it, and words will appear with much less stress and effort. Your fingers will want to type, basically, if you develop a muscle memory of them doing so. The hint is to start a daily task that turns into a habit. This is why I’m blogging more. It is one of my 8-10 daily tasks I’ve assigned myself this year.

If you want to start a writing practice, especially writing-as-meditation or -mental-health-exercise (i.e. stress reliever), try the Morning Pages practice found in The Artist’s Way book by Julia Cameron. I suggest buying the book and doing 1 exercise a day, including writing out, by hand, 3 stream-of-consciousness pages every morning. That’s it. It’s a little life hack to not only get your stresses out but to trick you into the muscle memory of writing daily. For writers, the most important part of this trick is getting their butts in the writing chair every day at the same time.

Here’s something to pin:

The opposite of fear is not courage. The opposite of fear is habit. -Christine Cavalier

Anyway – HABIT, not courage, is the opposite of FEAR. What do you fear? What’s been in your bucket list for a while now? What 15-30 minute daily task can you life-hack into your routine to get you closer to your goal?

Photo Credits:

Military photo provided by the US Army

Steven Pressfield quote made by Christine Cavalier using Brainy Quote

“The opposite” hang-gliding poster photo by Jordan Fischer on Flickr