In Self Control? Part 1 we asked whether Tai Chi can actually help someone improve their self control. I mentioned how I had seen it do so for several people and we asked how it might be responsible for such positive changes in those people.
Today, we will look at one of the answers.......or perhaps it would be better described as part of the answer...
Self control is definitely a habit, just like a lack of self control is a habit. Our bodies and minds are so adaptive it just amazes me. If we choose to do something over and over, pretty soon our minds are programmed to do that same thing every time we have the chance. Well, this is part of the reason self control can be so difficult for many people...........many of us have developed a habit of not being disciplined.
For some people the kinds of food they eat is where their discipline habits are most evident. They know they should eat better, but they have developed eating habits since the time they were little and when meal time comes, their body is just programmed to grab for certain foods and not for others. It's the same with people who eat really well. They have been doing so for a long time and they don't even consider the junk foods they used to eat because they have reprogrammed themselves...........or they have just always eaten that way, but either way, they have a developed habit of good food choices.
When it comes to discipline and self control most people notice that when they become more disciplined and self controlled in one area of their life it tends to spill over into other areas as well. This is probably the most basic aspect, or even possibly the "first part", of how Tai Chi can help a person develop greater self control in all areas of their life. When a person attends a Tai Chi class and follows the instructors directions and spend that whole class duration trying to improve their Tai Chi skills, there is a good bit of self control that they must practice......usually even without their direct knowledge. Generally that self control hides itself as "manners" or "normal behavior" because when someone takes a Tai Chi lesson they generally realize it's a much better work out than they had previously imagined and when their legs start to get tired and they start to sweat, they exercise self control by not quitting in the middle of practice. To most of us it's just obvious that you don't sit down and quit practicing something that you are taking a class to learn, but it is practicing self control to follow that "common sense" about how to behave in a class. That's why it is somewhat "hidden self control practice", but it begins to develop a habit of self control and discipline that can eventually begin to spill over into other areas of our lives because it starts to "reprogram" our brains and bodies to be self controlled for, at least, a couple hours a week.
But that can't be all there is to improving self control through Tai Chi, right? Probably not, considering most people try very hard to start new classes and new habits all the time and fail. They try to go to a class or practice every day, but sometimes they don't feel like it, or they stay really consistent for a long time then all the sudden just don't want to, or don't feel like they can, keep doing whatever their new endeavor may be. We see it in diets and exercise programs all the time. People start, last for a while, then quit and it's not because they didn't have enough time to form new habits either.....not usually anyways. There seems to be a missing ingredient somewhere......what is it? And can it be found in Tai Chi?
Check back in the near future for Self Control? Part 3 to find out what that missing ingredient is and if Tai Chi can help you find it. :)