Your Willpower Workout
How self regulatory skills.
My most recent read is a book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, the book does a great job a explaining how habits work and how you can apply the principles to your life.
As baseball coaches we want our players to develop correct habits on a several different levels.
We want them to develop the correct habits as it relates to actually playing the game of baseball (i.e. correct mechanics for fielding a ground ball, or swinging a bat, or throwing a fastball).
We also want to see them create habits that will serve them well in all areas of their life (i.e. discipline, unwavering work ethic, teamwork, persistence, and the will to compete).
In this book, Duhigg examines studies that reveal that willpower is not only a learned skill but it functions like a muscle. Meaning that just like the power stores in your biceps, willpower was actually a finite resource.
In the same way you can only do so many curls in a day, you can only exert so much willpower.
“Willpower isn’t just a skill, it is a muscle, like the muscles in your arms and legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.”Charles Duhigg
Once it became clear that it was a finite resource the question became: can you strengthen the willpower muscle the same way you can strengthen your biceps?
Multiple studies revealed that:
“As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives—in the gym, or a money management program—that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything.”
I have written in the past about “The Talent Code” and the idea of deep practice. How it in not only important, but absolutely necessary to experience a “targeted struggle” when practicing if exceptional skill is going to be built.
I also recognize that it can be extremely difficult to get a group of young athletes to engage in that level of deep, focused, deliberate practice. Operating at the edges of your ability (i.e. failing/getting out of your comfort zone) isn’t always fun, however, it is crucial to development. It requires patience and persistence as a coach, but I encourage all of you to have the resolve to hold your athlete’s feet to the fire and force them to practice in such a manner.
It can be a struggle, but it is simply a biological requirement if true world-class skill is going to be built.
“The Power of Habit” provides another reason as to why we as coaches should stay the course and force our athletes to perform “part practice” or other less fun modalities of deep practice.
BECAUSE IT LITERALLY STRENGTHENS THE WILLPOWER MUSCLE!
Duhigg provide a great piece of insight when he quotes Dartmouth researcher Todd Heatherton:
“This is why signing kids up for piano lessons or sports is so important. It has nothing to do with creating a good musician or a five-year-old soccer star,” says Heatherton. “When you learn to force yourself to practice for an hour or run fifteen laps, you start building self-regulatory strength. A five-year-old who can follow the ball for ten minutes becomes a sixth grader who can start his homework on time”Charles Duhigg
It often gets thrown out there and has become a bit cliché, but it really is true that coaches are teaching young athletes about much more than the sport, they are teaching them about life. In our case, baseball is simply the vehicle.