I stopped in at my vet's to pick up some drugs for one of our animals and caught him in the middle of spaying a dog. I asked him if he ever thought about how many times he had done that, which led to a discussion of Malcolm Gladwell's idea of the 10,000 hours required for mastery of an activity.
This vet and I were having a lively conversation, all the while he retracted, cut, requested 3.0 silk and sewed on his patient, never missing a step. Because he has done hundreds of spays.
As I left the office, I was musing on the notion of proficiency. I always say to my children (much to their annoyance) that 'what you practice is what you become.' It is implied in Gladwell's writings that these are desired behaviors we are mastering.
So what if the activity is UNdesireable?
Think about it. I wonder if old people are set in their ways not so much because they can't change, but because they have done that particular action thousands of iterations and it is just rote now. It takes no effort for them to act in the patterned way, but enormous energy to do something different. Perhaps it is simply economy of effort.
So how often do we practice selfishness? Snapping at the other person and making excuses for it – those reasons might be true – you really might be exhausted or anxious or whatever. But you have now just put one more hash mark into your "number of times you have practiced poor conduct."
Insults. Abuse. Violence. Rudeness. Defensiveness. Closed Mindedness. Everytime you do something, you become just that much more masterful of that action and it's all the easier to pull off the next occasion you elect to do it.
It kind of makes you want to get more intentional about your everyday choices, doesn't it?