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Quote of the Week 8/22/11

by Ellen on August 22nd, 2011

“When you stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing does itself.”

This quote shines a light on a common misconception about bad habits. For most people, when they realize they’re doing something wrong, their first instinct is to figure out what to do to correct it. If a dancer is told that she slumps forward in her torso, her instinct (and usually her teacher’s first correction) is to pull her shoulders back. However, in practice it’s found that this doesn’t really correct anything, but merely changes her bad habit to a different “wrong.” She has not returned to a true neutral, but has instead adopted a position of slumping forward with her shoulders pinched together. At its best this may appear to be more neutral on the outside, but in reality it is an incorrect posture that takes twice as much effort and is still just as wrong as before.

To truly remove a bad habit, we have to stop doing the habit instead of trying to correct it. If we can strip away all the layers of habits, we will eventually arrive at the point where the body moves naturally and efficiently, the way it was meant to, and the way it did when we were young and hadn’t yet developed any habits at all. This is why the quote states that the right thing “does itself.” One cannot actively try to do the right thing, since any instance of “trying” simply adds another layer to the habit pile. Once you stop doing all the wrong things, your body will be free to move naturally, and the right thing will happen on its own.

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