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If you celebrate, then merry Christmas.

For a long time, I've been drawn to the idea of repetition.

Let's use reps for short.

If you want to change something, especially if it involves a behaviour, reps are likely required.

When you explore repetition, I think it can also be broken down into two types: specific and thematic.

Having two young children (ages 4 and 7 right now) means I have an entire library of examples to reference in moments like this. If you don't have children, then please find your own library.

Let's explore specific and thematic repetition through an example.

Our kids are still at an age where tantrums occur (side note: does this ever end?)

Suppose I want to work on having an inner sense of calm when one of our children is yelling and writhing on the floor.

What would this look like through specific repetition?

Each time I find myself in the presence of a child's tantrum, I practice whatever method I have at my disposal for achieving that inner sense of calm.

Could be a few deep breaths. Could be repeating a mantra of some kind. Could be finding a nearby cushion and yelling into it.

This type of repetition is situational. It can only be performed in a specific context.

What would this look like through thematic repetition?

The first step here is to turn something specific into something a bit more abstract.

In my example, the specific thing is aiming to be calm in the face of a screaming child.

If we turn it into something slightly more abstract, it's aiming to be at peace in a stressful moment.

The more abstract you get, the wider you cast your thematic net.

So once you've found your ideal level of abstraction, then you have to look for other areas in your life where you can put in these thematic reps.

If we go back to my abstraction of aiming to be at peace in a stressful moment, here are some other possible options to put in the reps:

I could expose myself to a cold shower every day and practice becoming increasingly comfortable with it. I could arbitrarily set a timer on dinner prep, and force myself to prep and cook a meal during that time. I could put on loud or annoying noises in my headphones and attempt to do something that requires concentration (like read or write).

This type of repetition is non-situational, and can be performed in many contexts.

When and why should you move from the specific to the thematic?

Well, the problem with specific reps are that they require specific moments.

Sometimes those moments aren't always within your control.

If you really care about changing something, in other words, if you're really keen on putting in the reps, you may need to get thematic.

As I said earlier, thematic reps cast a wider net and there are plenty of them hiding in plain sight.

p.s. If you have another minute, this post pairs well with Everything is a Skill.

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