Muscle Memory

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A friend recently drove my car, and asked how the cruise control worked. From the passenger side of the car, I told her clearly and confidently. However, after following my precise instructions, we both felt the car slow down. “Hmm, I don’t know what’s wrong, but it works for me and I do the same thing.” After repeatedly speeding up, following my instructions, and slowing down, I both put on my reading glasses and looked at the clearly marked buttons. “Oh yea, I guess that’s what I do — push down instead of up.” Sheepishly, I mumbled, “I do it so automatically that I couldn’t tell you! Sorry about that.”

I’m in awe how unconsciously we do certain things. Muscle memory is created as a result of movements being repeated so many times that we perform them without conscious effort. I find, like with cruise control, I frequently can’t verbalize a series of motions because I’m so used to doing without thinking.

Passwords provide a great example of muscle memory. I was reminded of that when my bank recently updated their website. I sat and looked at my computer screen dumbfounded because with the three passwords required were now in different spots on two consecutive screens. I could no longer remember any of them. I had to close my eyes at each new spot and think through the old order so that I could pull out the portion I needed for the new screen format and sequence.

We also build up “spiritual muscle memory” by spending time in prayer, meditation, and Bible study. The more we repeat a motion, the more ingrained it becomes. The more we fill our minds with the right information, the more automatically we return to it. So, if we find ourselves fallen by the side of life, bleeding and bruised, it’s kind of like riding a bike. After climbing back on, we quickly find a comforting familiarity and focus. How do you develop your “muscles?”

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