30 Day Challenge: Brushing teeth with left hand


Mindfulness in Habit Formations

I am interested in studying about habits and knowing more about habit formation and habit change. Recently, I saw an interesting video on youtube. It was about developing the will-power. Will-power is strongly linked with habit formation or habit change. The main premise of the video was that when one tries to do something in a different way than one is already habituated to, the new action helps to create or reinforce new neural pathways in the brain. This leads to more mental flexibility and thus helps in changing established habits . Inspired by what I learnt, I decided to take up a 30 day challenge to brush my teeth every day with my non-dominant, i.e my left hand. And also I decided to journal it every day. And I did it!. Er..well... almost every day, except for one day that I forgot. The observations were quite interesting. Here they are:

Day 1: May 16, 2016
It was difficult to brush with my left hand. When I started, it felt like I am not able to clean my teeth properly. The left hand was not able to guide the brush to all corners and sides of the teeth. My right hand (dominant) was involuntarily coming up to grab the brush and finish the job, better and faster. But I resisted the urge and controlled my right hand mindfully. Let's see how this goes tomorrow.

Day 2:
It was not as difficult as yesterday. But I noticed one thing. Just when I put the paste on the tooth brush and went to the wash basin, instinctively, my right hand took the brush from my left hand and left hand was preparing to open the tap. I became mindful of the fact and stopped my right hand from taking control.
The act of brushing by left hand is not without danger. Today, the left hand couldn't control the force and the tooth brush hit the gym. Though no blood came out, still it was a little bit painful.

Day 3:
I had forgotten about the left hand brushing this morning. So, I started my brushing, without being aware of what hand I was using. Mid way through, I realized, I was using my right hand. So, I changed to the left and became conscious of the act of brushing. Realized that being mindful is very important to change habits.

Day 4:
Due to my absent-mindedness yesterday, I was extra careful today. Brushed using my left hand from start to the end. No gum casualties or inadvertent eventualities for the day. The speed is still slow. The awkwardness is reducing. But not fully comfortable yet.

Day 5:
I was mindful from the beginning. But I observed how exactly I start brushing. Usually, I take the tooth brush in my right hand and pick up the tube of toothpaste also in the right hand. Then, I hold the toothpaste in left hand and unscrew the cap using my right hand. I exchange the toothpaste to right and brush to left, squeeze the toothpaste tube with right hand and guide the paste on to the brush.
But today, I reversed the entire process. It was amazing to observe, how involuntarily, my hands were trying to do everything without my knowledge and I had to consciously break the pattern. Also brushed completely with left hand.

Day 6 :
I was telling Lina about something when I picked up my toothbrush. Was not mindful and the right hand picked up the brush and right hand squeezed the toothpaste tube. When I realized, I had my left hand take over. This act of non dominant hand brushing is becoming an exercise in mindfulness than anything else. The brushing, though completely using left hand, was uneventful. I am having lot of hesitation in brushing faster using left hand, unlike my right hand, which finishes the brushing quite fast. Being mindful is allowing me to observe and learn more about the simple act of brushing.

I have completed a week of brushing using the left hand. Today, there was some urgency while brushing. I had to get ready really quick as I had to go somewhere. Using my left hand, I felt like I was doing it very slowly. If I would have used my right hand, it could have been quite faster.

Day 8:
After brushing for about 15 to 20 seconds, I  realized that I was using my right hand. Being mindful is important while doing something, but is even more important while starting something. The act of brushing with the left hand later was smooth.

Day 9:
Today I could brush quite fast using the left hand. Slowly, I am getting used to it. The problem is when I have to flick the direction of brush from brushing the teeth on left side of the jaw to the right or vice versa. I think, by day 30, that will also be easy!

Day 10:
In just 10 days, it is really difficult to break an instinct. However mindful I try to be, my instinct gets better of me and right hand moves forward. Today, I caught myself brushing with my right hand for 4-5 seconds initially. Then realized the mistake and left hand took over.  26th may

Day 11:
Again starting problem. Habit of 40 years cannot be changed in 10 days. But no harm in experimenting. Today, absent-mindedly, I was using the right hand for about 30-40 seconds when I realized my mistake and rectified it. The left hand brushing is becoming less and less awkward. 

Day 12:
I was mindful from the very beginning today. Did everything with my non dominant left hand. Feeling great that I didn't use the right hand for brushing. 

Day 13:
Again, the trick is to be mindful when starting the activity. Today, I was observing both my hands and found how automatically, the dominant hand does so many things, before the act of brushing starts. The number of times the hands swap the brush and tube of paste is mind-boggling for such a simple act of squeezing the paste out. Completed everything with non dominant hand! 

Day 14:
It is so strange. I had to catch a flight to Pune early morning today. So, I woke up at 3:00am and rushed to get ready. Didn't have time to jot down this. Now, at 10:00pm when I am trying to recall how I brushed my teeth today, I am unable to! 

Day 15:
Was very mindful from beginning and able to complete brushing in left hand. 

Day 16: Jun 1:
Brushed in the train, while traveling to bhubaneshwar. Used left hand throughout. 

Day 17:
Getting habituated to be mindful of using left hand. Brushing speed has definitely increased and do not have the unbrushed feeling anymore after brushing with left hand. 

Day 18:
It doesn't feel unnatural anymore to brush with the left hand. Though the fine motor control of right hand is still not there, yet the left hand is now able to do a decent job 

Day 19
Brushed with left hand and nothing unusual happened. 

Day 20:
It is becoming smoother and smoother to brush with the non dominant hand. Speed has also increased and so has the confidence. The right had is more tame and involuntary actions of right hand which used to move on its own to grab the brush has stopped. 

Day 21:
I think it has become quite natural for me to use the left hand while brushing. There is no awkwardness or uneasiness. Still, if I compare with my right hand, the speed is quite slow. 

Day 22:
Left hand brushing without any problems. Now, flicking of the wrist to move the brush is also easy. 

Day 23:
Left hand brushing is becoming easier day by day. I think I am able to brush faster and with finer control. So, just to compare how I was doing, today, I used my right hand for the last minute of brushing. And, what did I find? The right hand is still far far superior in controlling the brush and it's speed than the left. If I were to quantify it, the left hand would be operating at 20-25% efficiency of the right hand! 

Day 24:
Non dominant hand brushing is not very difficult now. Also, I do not have to be extra mindful in the beginning to engage my left hand. It is remaining in my sphere of consciousness and I use my left hand. The right hand is now more restrained and is abstaining from involuntarily picking up the brush. Speed in the left hand is still a concern. 

Day 25:
Used left hand. No issues. No remarkable observations!! 

Day 26:
Using left hand has become natural. Nothing special. 

Day 27:
Even I don't have to be very mindful to brush using the left hand. It is natural. 

Day 28:
Brushed with left hand. No special remarks. 

Day 29:
Just when you think you have mastered the left hand brushing , your habit of 40 years raises it's head to tell you how powerless you are. Today, I was actually speaking with Lina when I put paste on the brush and after a minute of brushing, I realized I was using my right hand. Then changed to the left. 

Day 30:
The last day of challenge and my thoughts prevent me to start brushing with the non dominant hand. After a few seconds, I realized that I was using the right hand and changed the hand. Learning is that changing a habit is difficult, but not impossible. Being mindful is the easiest way to get a habit changed. 

Lessons Learnt:

There were a few lessons that I learnt from this exercise.

  1. I learnt that it is always difficult to start something new. But once you get going, slowly things become easier and better.
  2. Being mindful was the biggest aid in establishing this habit change. The days that I was mindful, I had could do this activity with ease. The days I was not, I forgot.
  3. There is a memory of the body. With the years of repitition, the hand knows what it has to do. Muscular habits are do deeply ingrained that it takes real mindfulness to change them.
  4. With the required practice, any habit can change.

Anatomy of a Seminar - National Achievers Conference - Part 7

The next speaker was a person by name Kevin Green. He claimed to be a real estate magnate who owns thousands of properties in the UK. He was here to give tips to Indians on how to become rich by investing in the property market.

He started by asking how many people own 1 property. Many hands went up. Then he asked how many own 2 properties. Few hands went up. Then he asked how many own 5 properties. Hardly any hand went up. Then he said that he owns 1000 properties!

In similar fashion as Peng Joon, he also started showing pictures of his affluence, his family taking vacation, his picture with Prince Charles and other dignitaries. I knew quite clearly what was the modus operandi. He was here to sell his training program again. I did not want to spend much time in the conference as I had some important family gathering to attend. So, I left, having been satisfied by listening to Dr Velumani.

I heard that there were some other speakers later who were quite good.

So, here is how the NAC format works. They line up speakers. One would be a motivational speaker who may not be selling anything directly, like Subodh or Dr Velumani. Then, alternatively, there will be others, who are basically hard selling their training programs. Though they also have something to tell, I felt they did not have a good message. Typically, these guys who are trying to sell something, are sourced from outside the country and may be for a reason. No one can in such case, do a background check on their credentials. They of course have a profile in the internet which can be created for anyone in matter of weeks.

It may also be such that while Subodh and Dr Velumani would have been invited by Success Gyan, the others who are trying to sell their programs, would have rather paid Success Gyan (or the Singapore company) to get the stage time. Also, Success Gyan may claim a commission on their training program sales. Success Gyan also partners with other trainers to offer programs like ‘Milionare Mind Intensive’ (MMI) etc. In such seminars like NAC, they sell discounted tickets to MMI

Now, Success Gyan also recruits an army of volunteers at each location. These volunteers work for free as ushers, stage managers, audio visual team, other support staff and probably have the benefit of being able to attend these conferences. They do much of the ground work. They also keep selling tickets (without commission). They get some other benefits as meeting some of these trainers personally, taking pictures with them etc.

I felt that this is network marketing for learning and development. You get good as well as bad teachers. It is part of the deal. The good part of it is one can learn a lot, but the bad part is one can lose a lot of money in this as well. The discretion is yours, where to draw the line because everyone tries to hardsell!

Anatomy of a Seminar - National Achievers Conference - Part 6

The next Speaker was introduced as someone who has created a Rs 2000 crore business from scratch. He was Dr. Velumani, the person behind Thyocare, a thyroid testing lab, which revolutionized the lab industry by lowering the test costs and introducing the franchise model. 

Dr Velumani was awesome! He had a rustic touch. Before he started his story, he said that he does not agree with the previous speaker, who told that making money was easy and one does not have to work hard at all for it. Velumani said that one has to work hard, really hard – Mehnat karo! Then he told his story, the same story that he tells in all events that you can find here. Here is an ET article on him. He was born in a village near Coimbatore. He is the son of a landless farmer. He studied there. From villages he learnt the practicalities of life! He went to school with a slate and a plate in hand.  

He said, you either Discuss or you Decide. If you discuss, you cannot decide. If you decide, do not discuss further! You cannot do both.

  • When he completed his studies at his village, he decided he go to Bombay. He did not discuss with his parents. He just left home! Had he discussed with them, they would have asked him to stay back!
  • When time for marriage came, he did not discuss with his parents. He decided to marry.
  • When the time of resigning his job came, he did not discuss with his wife. He resigned.
  • When he thought about reducing the price of thyroid testing from Rs 100 to Rs 60, he did not discuss with anyone. He just decided to do it and profits quadrupled!

He said he studied in BARC for 14 years! He did not work as he was studying all the time. He completed his MSc and PhD in Thyroid Biochemistry. Then he decided to go into business. He wanted to reduce the cost. He offered Thyroid testing at Rs 100 while the ongoing rate was Rs 500. He reduced the supply cost. He still made money because of volume!

His main ideas were do not go for loans. Go for a very simple life. Make others win!! Act Poor. Live Frugal. Consume only 10% of salary. Focus! Have a great story. Narrate it well!
Dr Velumani got the best response from the audience. I was totally impressed. He had a lot of humorous touch to his speech. Many anecdotes he told had the audience bursting out in laughter.

He said, his success was always because he helped others win! Jeetao!

I felt this was totally entertaining, learning and worthwhile among all the speakers that I had heard till then. There was something which left me awestruck at the end. At the end of the presentation, Dr Velumani showed a picture of him and his wife. He said, that his wife passed away in Hyderabad, just 1 month back. I realized that even before his wife passed away, he used to show her picture at end of all presentations.

He got a standing  ovation from the crowd!

Anatomy of a Seminar - National Achievers Conference - Part 5

Peng Joon was actually not selling his training program. He was selling aspiration. He was selling people the dream to become rich! To be an online entrepreneur. To make tones of money easily! He persuaded people that they need not be computer wizards to build a website. He told them that they need not know great English to write a book. Everything could be outsourced! He said, even if you have zero experience, even if you have been a complete failure in life, you can still be a successful entrepreneur.

He also told something good. He said, do not build a service on the internet. Because for a service, you have to be there all the time to provide it. So, build a product. Like a eBook. Once written, you can keep getting sales royalty! Take something that you are good at, say you are good at playing piano. Then create a 3 hour video of how to play the piano. Chunk it 18 lessons of 10 minutes each. Get a subscriber base and publish it to the subscribers on a weekly basis! Of course, I got some idea from this!

After the session by Peng Joon, there was a break for 20 minutes. The attendees were asked to go and have some refreshments, obviously by buying them. The vip folks were taken for a meeting with Peng Joon. Refreshments were organized for the gold ticket holders. So, I was wondering what to do when I saw another Toastmasters friend who is into training and has his own training Institute, sitting alone. I ambled up to him and started a conversation. Since he was already a part of the training industry, I asked him directly, would there be people who take these training? He said, yes, of course. But agreed in course of discussion that, some of them sign up thinking that they will set up online business. Others are clear that they just want the training and materials. The folks who take the training as a train-the-trainer, immediately get down to business by offering the same training and the same materials in smaller cities of Andhra and Telangana. They typically offer it for Rs15000. Thus, if they get 5 clients, they are able to recover the investment. Subsequently, they make money. The folks who spend money for online business quickly realize that they cannot make money so easily and they start offering the same training to others at a lower rate.

The guys who get the training at Rs 15000, offer it again in a small town for as low as Rs 3000. Again, with just 5 more people, they recover their investment. The cycle thus continues...

I thought this was a remarkable network marketing concept. The person at the top of the chain keeps churning new training and the business keeps running.

I asked my friend, is this not some kind of fraud? The person is saying he will help setup online business, but finally every one is into training. My friend said, most people know it is training business only. Some folks are lured by promise of online business. But, they somehow believe that they can make it. And the trainers believe that they are helping them genuinely!! If both parties are happy, what is the issue?

The 20 minutes break was over and announcement was made for the next Speaker. I returned to my own seat.