The brain’s primary purpose is to make sure we survive. Therefore, it is much better at handling variable instead of repetitive tasks. Ever wonder why even Tiger Woods overshoots a putt? Or why the #1 NBA free throw shooter won’t hit every shot? A new study out of Stanford University claims that our brains make sure that we can never be perfect.
Stanford scientist Krisha Shenoy says that even though the muscles may remember what to do, the brain’s obsessive need to plan for surprises keeps us from ever being able to perform the same every time. Since the vast majority of situations we face in life require quick decisions and diverse movements, the brain never allows itself to go to sleep.
Shenoy’s studies found that when the brain engages in repetitive tasks, after a while there will be small brain activity in movement planning, which occurs before the movement begins. The brain, still trying to keep predators on their toes, doesn’t realize it is sabotaging your golf game. It just shifts to make sure you don’t get stale, lazy or unmindful about what is going on.
BRAIN TIP: We all know that practice improves performance, it just can’t perfect performance. So you shouldn’t quit practicing. But you can quit beating yourself up for being perfect, a humanly impossible goal.
BRAIN TIP: Instead of working on perfection, you can work on presence. You might not be able to totally master playing your sport or your musical instrument, presenting your speech or accomplishing your task, but you can stay alert to the moment. When you stay focused in the present, your brain doesn’t have to wake itself up. You lessen the “misfires” because of lapses in concentration. Or you can lessen the impact of errors made once the shift is made.
This doesn’t mean you have to rethink every move you make. It just means keeping your body relaxed, feeling the world around you and the earth beneath you, being aware of your movements and staying focused on the here and now. Athletes who perform in the zone may not be thinking about what they are doing, but they are not thinking about anything else. They are just flowing with the experience, enjoying it and taking it one step at a time.
In the end, this is another good reason to lighten up. Be nicer to yourself and be softer with others. It is the most civilized thing to do in this divinely imperfect world.
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