in: Character, Habits, Sunday Firesides

Sunday Firesides: Gotta Get in the Reps

A man shooting a basketball at an outdoor court with the words "Sunday Firesides" displayed above him.

Coach youth sports long enough, and you begin to see the main difference maker as to which would-be athletes improve. The kids who dribble the basketball in their driveway every night or play catch with their parents during the week, get better. Those who don’t handle the ball outside of scheduled practices, do not. 

It’s the reps that matter. It’s the number of “touches” — the number of times the kid’s got the ball in his hands, that determines whether he develops the skills of the game.

Repetition is the difference maker outside of sports as well. Not only, of course, in learning things like a musical instrument, where the more often you’re tickling the keys, the better a piano player you become, but also in training the soul.

Aristotle famously said that virtue is a habit. We become virtuous by doing

If you wish to achieve self-mastery, it’s not enough to meditate or work out once a week. Self-mastery must be built by regularly doing things you’d rather not do. It must be built by engaging in small daily practices — initiating a difficult conversation, foregoing dessert, turning off a suspenseful movie to go to bed — that drill your discipline. 

If you wish to become a loving husband or dedicated disciple, it’s not enough to show up for a date night or church service once a week or once a year. Such dispositions must be developed through daily devotions. 

Character is cultivated by getting in thousands of little touches, doing the thousands of little reps that build the muscle memory of the heart — and prepare you for life’s higher-stakes moments. 

When a great trial or temptation arrives, the man who enters the arena and comes out with the crown, is not he who’s merely been practicing, but he who’s made life his practice. 

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