Improve, repeat, improve

There are so many rituals around Christmas and New Year. Making lists for gifts, missing the last posting date to send cards to Australia (or is that just me?!), Christmas specials on TV, hearing jingly music in the shops, decorating the Christmas tree, buying presents, travelling to be with family and friends where we tell the same stories and laugh at the same jokes.


When it comes to New Year, after the festive celebrations and indulgence, there is drinking less, eating more healthily, exercising more and making many promises to ourselves to stick to plans to make the year so much better than the last.

Repetition can be incredibly reassuring and comforting. But when we break our New Year resolutions it can be disappointing and it is easy to give up. Again.

Repetition of unhelpful habits or behaviours can also be problematic. You may have heard the quote attributed to Albert Einstein that ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results'.

Breaking bad habits

I have worked with many clients who want to break bad habits or repeated behaviour that is not serving them well. Many clients have thoughts on a loop inside their head that they want to interrupt and make sense of. Many have negative thoughts that have become automatic in certain situations or when interacting with certain people.

We work together to explore the context for habits and behaviours and repetitive, unhelpful thoughts. We explore the specific circumstances where and when the thoughts occur and the feelings they evoke in order to reframe ways of thinking, feeling and doing.

If this resonates with you, some useful questions to ask yourself include:

  • Where does it happen? (Like New Year resolutions - try to be as specific as possible).
  • How much control do you have over the situation? 
  • What are you thinking when you are doing it? 
  • How do you feel? 
  • What happens as a result? 

And then repeat the questions to explore ways to alter the situation and the thinking and the doing, in order to get a different outcome:

  • Where does it happen?
  • How much control could you have over the situation?
  • What do you want to be thinking when you are doing it?
  • How do you want to feel?
  • What would happen as a result?

Repetition: The route to mastery

Repetition – a focussed form of repetition - can also be the route to mastery. You may have heard about the ‘10,000 hours’ rule. This was made famous by Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers.  The notion is based on research by Anders Ericsson into elite athletes and musicians. He concluded that their achievements were not based in innate skill or genius but in ‘deliberate practice’.

The 10,000 figure stems from the fact that many of them had practised for at least 10,000 hours. However, deliberate practice is not simply repetition – it is practice with a clear focus and it is outside of our comfort zone. It is about stretching our ability, continually striving to improve. Did you know that London black cab drivers who learn The Knowledge by memorising routes through London streets over years of practice actually expand the size of their brains?

Ericsson also notes that practice is enhanced with the support of a teacher or a coach. Why?

It is easy to keep practising without really getting better - the accumulation of hours is not enough. It also requires a great deal of effort to continually practise when it is uncomfortable - the point just beyond your current ability. A coach can keep you motivated when it feels tough.

Ericsson talks about the importance of having clearly defined, specific goals.  A good coach will help you clarify these at the start of your coaching journey - and at the start of every coaching session. Ericsson also talks about aiming for specific targets - not vague, overall improvement. You need to be clear on what you are aiming for to be able to measure your success.

When you start a new job, there are many things to learn. You may need lots of practice. This can be daunting and a coach can help you manage the challenges you might face. You may have made mistakes in a previous role that you really don’t want to repeat. A coach can also help you to explore ways to avoid them.

On the other hand, if you have been in your job for a while, you may feel that you are no longer improving. You’ve gained a great deal of experience but it then becomes more difficult to gain the satisfaction of doing well at something new, or simply feeling you are doing well at all.

You’ve done it all before. Repeat.

But there are always things you can change. Ericsson talks about incremental improvements over time. With the help of a coach you can pinpoint areas of your work where you could still develop, where you could enhance your performance. With a coach reflecting back to you on your progress and holding you accountable you can refine your skills and regain the enthusiasm and energy and satisfaction from a job well done.

  • What forms of repetition do you recognise in your own life?
  • Are they re-assuring and comfortable?
  • Are they stretching?
  • Are they frustrating?
  • Are they unhelpful?

Could you benefit from the support of a coach? If you'd like to explore how I might be able to support you please DO get in touch! Why stay on repeat when you could be improving, expanding and getting more out of your day to day? And you never know, like a London taxi driver, you might even expand the size of your brain.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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St Leonards On Sea TN38 & London WC1H
Written by Julie Allen
St Leonards On Sea TN38 & London WC1H

Julie Allen is a transformational coach who supports professionals to resolve workplace challenges so their career can flourish. She also works with organizations to support teams who want to work better together so the team, department and organization can thrive.

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