Thursday, April 7, 2011

Muscle Memory

Athletes sometimes talk about “muscle memory.” It is the ability for the brain to record what certain movements and activities “feel” like and therefore be able to replicate them when called for. In fact, we all use “muscle memory.” Riding a bicycle, typing on a keyboard, playing a familiar melody on a musical instrument, and playing video games are all examples. The “memory” isn’t actually in the muscles, of course. It is in somatosensory cortices (that didn’t just roll out of my vast store of knowledge – I looked it up) of the brain.

That same brain storage area is capable of storing other things as well – like what it feels like to succeed. When we have small successes in life (or small failures, for that matter), the brain records how that felt and what it took to feel that way and is primed to make it happen again. In other words, success breeds success.

If this is the case, it would makes sense for us to “practice” success as often and as much as we can until succeeding becomes a part of our muscle memory. Begin by doing small things that you have a good chance at accomplishing successfully.  Do several. Then try something a bit more challenging. Accomplish that goal and the muscle memory is beginning to record positive results. Do the same again and again and soon, like riding a bicycle, success will become quite natural and effortless.

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