Related: 9 Habits of Highly Effective Lacrosse Players: Communication

There’s a popular adage that says it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Whether it’s getting up early, doing work without procrastinating, or getting in the groove of a fundamental skill, 21 consecutive days of repeated execution will set you up for maintaining a good habit.

But according to a recent article in Forbes, habit formation is a process that happens in phases and could take much longer than just three weeks.

So, who’s right?

If you subscribe to the same tenets as highly effective lacrosse players, the answer to being the best at your craft lies outside the idea of “habit” altogether. Of course, this series is called “9 Habits of Highly Effective Lacrosse Players,” but what if the best lacrosse players in the world aren’t just habitual?

Let’s take a look at the word habit. Its most common definition is, “An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” We classify habits as good or bad and tend to think of great athletes as having great habits, but there is nothing involuntary about the practices of the best lacrosse players.

The lacrosse players who represent our country on the international stage, the athletes who find themselves on championship teams again and again, the members of Team USA are not just habitual. They are deliberate.

What’s the difference in being habitual and being deliberate? Deliberation involves thought, decisiveness, and intent. Being deliberate means making sure that your actions, your words, and your thoughts all lead to the best result you can create. It means being vigilant and doing things purposely. Deliberate athletes progress and improve where habitual athletes may often stagnate.

Greg Gurenlian, faceoff man for Team USA and the New York Lizards (and youth lacrosse coach) regularly reminds his athletes through social media that they have the power to direct their practice, their attitude, and their presence to develop their game. In short, they have the power to practice, or they have the power to practice smart. Greg is a big proponent of deliberate and correct reinforcement of skills, and focuses his attention on the changes that can produce improvement. There’s no room for a plan that simply emphasizes repetition. Greg’s approach is evident not only in his game, but in the feedback he regularly gets from players who train with him.

Kyle Hartzell is no stranger to a deliberate lifestyle, either. The Team USA long stick midfielder, pro lacrosse player, and youth coach has made one purposeful move after another to get where he is today. Unlike many of his teammates, Hartzell started out in junior college, rather than at a four-year university. One play at a time, he and his teammates at CBCC Essex won the NJCAA national championship. Kyle kept going. He transferred to Salisbury State University and joined a team that would eventually win the Division III NCAA national title in his senior year. Despite the win, Kyle wasn’t picked for the MLL draft that year. He describes being disenchanted with the game, but determined to get better. His drive and work ethic led him to championships in both the MLL and NLL and a spot on Team USA. There has been nothing unintentional about his path or his success. It is in every way planned and executed.

Being deliberate doesn’t stop at the sidelines. As Team USA and MLL goalie Drew Adams says of what he and his teammates put out in interviews and on social media, “This group, we’ve made it to this point not only because of our skills, but also because we care about our character. We try to be a good influence on others. We might not have the reach that other athletes have, but what we say can make a difference and have an impact on a kid’s thoughts. We’re all aware of what we’re saying and that we can have an impact.” Drew describes a careful and considered approach to the image he projects as a part of the larger goal of being an elite athlete, a good teammate, and role model for the kids coming up in the sport.

All this is not to say that Team USA players don’t have habits. Everyone does. But perhaps the best way to describe the elevated consciousness that makes these men deliberate rather than habitual comes from faceoff man Chris Eck.

“I’m still learning. The veteran players on the Cannons and on Team USA are constantly either representing what you should be doing better, or they’re actively teaching you. There’s something I learn every time I step on the field, no matter what I’m working on.”

The best of the best in lacrosse make it a point to be deliberate in what they say, think, and do. Rise above the habitual, and you’ll be on your way to being highly effective.

Over to you. What other habits do you notice in highly effective lacrosse players? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Morgan Crutchfield is a travel journalist who is quickly becoming a lacrosse fanatic. She tweets @CentralMorgan and blogs about lacrosse from a parent and fan perspective at DeliberatelyMorgan.Wordpress.com.

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