Creating a Lucky Break – Involuntary Action
I’ve coached my son’s soccer team for years. When the boys were learning the basics, I tried to get them to practice with both of their feet instead of relying only on their preferred foot. They would complain and insist that they just were not good enough with their other foot. Their involuntary action was to use their right foot every time.
I kept at it. During games, I would see them have an easy shot at goal with their left foot but miss the opportunity because they took the time to switch positions so they could kick with their right foot. At practice, we would repeat our opposite foot drills over and over. Most of them didn’t see the point. They were resolved in their ability to kick well only with one foot.
Lucky Break or Training to React?
A couple of years went by and the concept of switching feet started to sink in with a couple of the boys. Then, at one game, one of them had a chance to score off of a rebounded shot. Without thinking, he reacted – with his left foot. The ball bounced off his foot and right into the net. Everyone cheered.
When he got to the sidelines, I congratulated him on using his left foot to score. His response: “Oh, I was just lucky.” I knew better. I also knew I needed to reinforce the connection between repetition and involuntary action. I told him that he reacted with his left foot without thinking because he had been practicing that for years. It wasn’t as simple as a lucky break. Somewhere deep in the corners of his mind his brain knew to use his left foot at that very moment. He had no time to think about the decision. It was an involuntary action invoked by muscle memory.
Every Day Involuntary Actions
All of us make countless unconscious decisions every day. The way we react to situations are based on years of training, starting from the time our parents said “no” to something we wanted or “yes” to something that was met with approval.
Over time, the yes’s and no’s from all of our interactions shaped how we think and what we perceive we can do. We eventually started saying “yes” or “no” to ourselves without needing our environment to say it to us. “I can’t see myself ever making $100,000 a year.” “I’m supposed to work only 8 hours a day.” “I could never run a marathon.” “The only spice I can handle is salt.” “She’ll never go out with me.” We make unconscious decisions without considering an alternative. Our involuntary actions hold us back.
Breaking the Cycle of Involuntary Action
As adults, we usually don’t have a coach forcing repetition to change our behavior. Don’t fear pushing yourself into considering a different way of thinking because it is uncomfortable. You are grown up now and you will have to take responsibility to make a change on your own. Here is how to do it:
- Picture a behavior that you would like to have and describe it in one sentence. Example: “When my boss asks for my opinion, I instantly rattle off several smart ideas.”
- Identify what things you would have to do that are uncomfortable but required for this new trait.
- Every night before you go to sleep, write down one sentence that documents what you did during the day that was out of your comfort zone.
By forcing yourself to write down your daily actions, you will move toward changing your behavior and will no longer be crippled by involuntary actions that limit your options. You can make your own lucky break.