Cut Through The Jungle Of Options To Maximize Effectiveness
When you’re in a dynamic situation, cycling through options may waste time you should be spending DOING SOMETHING. In order to understand how this process plays out in a physical & mental context, let’s look to an analogy of walking through a dense jungle.
Imagine you’re in the middle of nowhere, and you want to get from Point A to Point B.
There’s no path for you to follow; you have to push your way through the plants that are all fighting to occupy their space in the jungle.
It’s going to take you forever to get where you want to go, and you’re certainly not going to get there by the most direct route possible, either. But, if you walk the same path over and over long enough, you’ll eventually wear a faint path into the jungle.
How long would that process take? Substantially longer if you weren’t able to use a tool, like a machete, that’s for sure.
If you did have a machete, however, you could cut through the path relatively quickly. Eventually you could even have a well defined trail cut through the forest and get from A to B as quickly as you could go.
The Jungle Is Your Body
In this case the jungle is your nervous system. The pathway is how skillful you are at any motor skill you practice often enough. Most people call this “muscle memory,” which is a misnomer. Your muscles have no memory system on their own.
What’s happening when you practice a motor skill is the process called “myelination.”
Myelin is the fatty insulation covering your nerve cells. It prevents the electrical impulse from running along too many available paths in the system of nerve endings and muscle groups. (Together they’re the neuromuscular pathways.)
Fun fact: This is why babies have terrible coordination. They jerk their arms & legs around so much because the electrical impulses in their nervous system are running along too many paths at the same time. As they get older, myelin comes along to insulate the proper pathways and this insures only the correct muscles for each movement are reacting to the initial nerve impulse.
So when you practice a motor skill, what you’re doing is reinforcing the proper neuromuscular pathway by increasing the amount of myelin along that particular chain of nerve cells.
Focus On One Pathway
So when you’re presented with a dynamic situation, you have millions of potential options available to you all the time. It’s like all the palm fronds obscuring your way forward. If you want to make sure you aren’t paralyzed, it’s important to have your route already picked out, cleared, and well-traveled ahead of time.
That’s what training is for; to figure out the proper path to take, and forge the proper neuromuscular pathways that will help you when you need them. Then, your techniques won’t be consciously deployed; they’ll be a natural physical reaction.
Just be careful what you practice, because you’ll wind up doing it! Train properly, train safely, and train like your life depends on it (because it does).