In his epic biography Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger describes the method to his success in life as reps and mileage. Of course, most will know Arnold as a bodybuilder and attribute the meaning of reps simply as the repetitions in weightlifting.
Arnold meant something else though.
Everything we do in life is reps and mileage. Reps means repetitions – that is the number of times we do something and mileage means the amount of time or distance we put in.
If you think about this in the context of everything we do, we can use this knowledge to both rid bad habits and create new, good habits as well.
From the moment we are born everything we learn to do has a foundation of repetitions. The very first words we try and speak are perfected over time with repetitions – attempts to speak.
When we are learning to take our first steps, we will fall many times before we succeed. But it is through repetition that we will eventually master this simple act we now take for granted every day.
Even getting dressing, brushing our teeth, eating food – all the things we do so mindlessly and simply was born through repetition.
An Olympic athlete becomes the best in the world by putting the time in the swimming pool (mileage) every single morning (repetitions).
There is another bad side to repetition too, though. Most of our bad habits can be attributed to reps and mileage too. Smoking a cigarette for the very first time is relatively harmless. But over time, through repetitions, we become addicted to every aspect.
Starting the day with a 600ml iced coffee, what some may call a “ritual” is also born out of repetition.
Repetition builds good habits and repetition builds bad habits.
So how does this knowledge help us achieve our goals and success? Simply by remembering this fact we can use it to our advantage to both rid old habits and build new habits.
Let’s say for example we want to build a new mindfulness meditation habit. While meditation can be beneficial in a very short time, it is generally through mileage (minutes spent meditating) and repetitions (meditating every morning) that the real benefits come over time.
So when we first begin meditating we can expect it to feel strange, new and unnatural just as attempting our first steps felt strange, new and unnatural.
But as we have grown intellectually since our first years on earth we can transcend past these feelings and know that putting in the reps and mileage will likely make the habit one day feel completely natural and comfortable.
We can use the same knowledge and wisdom to break bad habits as well. When we first attempt to stop a bad habit such as smoking or overindulging in bad food we can expect the first attempts to be difficult.
But just as we know building good habits over time becomes easier, we can rest in the knowledge that ceasing bad habits will too become easier over time.
So how do we know all this for sure? Simply because the mind creates the brain, creates the mind. If that all sounds a little strange let me explain further.
Habits are built through neurons connecting to each other. These connections can be both weak, or strong.
Just as repetitions in weightlifting strengthens muscle, repetitions of actions and thought patterns strenghten and even builds new connections between neurons in the brain.
This is called neuroplasticity. And because we are all human, and share the same brains this applies to all of us.
But because of reps and mileage, we can too expect our own mind to get in the way of building new habits. All the old stories we have told ourselves day after day, month after month, year after year have also built strong neural connections.
Every time we have repeated a story internally or acknowledged it as truth, we have strengthened the power it has over us. So remember to hold these stories lightly and challenge them.
It is also reps and mileage that will help rewrite these stories over time.