My favorite part of last week’s podcast with James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, was the last five minutes when he talked about a potential downside of good habits. When we decide to improve, and create a new practice with the right cues and rewards, we form a new habit. But habits can put us on autopilot and, if we’re not careful, we can stop improving or even regress.
This is why surgeon effectiveness can peak four or five years after they start practicing – unless they actively try to improve their craft, and why “number of surgeries” may not be a metric that correlates to quality of outcome. James Clear suggests that deliberate reflection is critical to loop back to learning to create further improvement, which can then lead to mastery.
Interestingly, Taiichi Ohno said something very similar:
Most of us look for reasons when we fail, but very few of us look for reasons when we succeed. It is important to search for the reasons why you were able to succeed, and make sure to use the acquired learning in the future.
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