Use makes master. Practice makes perfect. The power of habit is what all training attempts to harness. What we do repeatedly, day in day out we not only do well, but we do it easily. Without thinking. This can be seen for example in military training. The goal of military training among other things is to make habitual the desired reaction in life-threatening, stressful situations. It is not easy to shoot someone. It goes against the grain, usually. But a recruit is so drilled throughout his training that when the time comes he shoots without a second thought. This is perhaps an extreme example of the power of habit.
I am reminded of a couple of stories in the Zen tradition. In ‘Zen in the Art of Archery’, Eugen Herrigel recounts how he had difficulty drawing a certain bow. The Master took the bow and drew it several times and gave it back to him. Herrigel then found the bow easier to draw. Some of the Master’s power seemed to have ‘rubbed off’ on the bow.
In another Zen story, a samurai with little experience of the sword was challenged to a duel. In a panic, he sought help from a sword master. The sword master, knowing there was little time for training, took the samurai to the place where the duel was to be fought the next day. He drew his sword and with a great roar, made a furious charge and slashing stroke at an imaginary opponent. He then told the samurai to stand in his footprints tomorrow and charge in the same way following his footprints in the sand and making the same stroke. The next day the samurai did as the sword master had said and struck his opponent down dead with one blow.
Such is the power of training, of habit: even someone else’s that is ‘lent’ to us.
Habit is ten times nature. Duke of Wellington
Habituation puts to sleep the eye of our judgment. Montaigne
If we look back upon the usual course of our feelings, we shall find that we are more influenced by the frequent recurrence of objects than by their weight and importance; and that habit has more force in forming our characters than our opinions have. The mind naturally takes its tone and complexion from what it habitually contemplates. Robert Hall
It's not what you do once in a while, it's what you do day in and day out that makes the difference. Jenny Craig
When we have practiced good actions awhile they become easy; when they are easy we take pleasure in them; when they please us we do them frequently; and then, by frequency of act they grow into habit. Tilloyson
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. Jim Ryun