Last weekend I was at a party where I got the chance to play the video game Rock Band for the first time. Having been a drummer for almost 20 years, I thought it should be a piece of cake to sit behind the game controller of rubber and plastic electronic drums and start jamming with the rest of the players.
I gave my drumstick a twirl as the screen started clicking off a beat to a classic Yes tune (yeah, I was playing with a bunch of adults my age – it’s called classic rock for a reason) and then I started getting my cues from the screen. All I had to do was watch the stream of different colors come down the pathway toward me and hit the gamepad “drums” for each corresponding color in time with the beat.
But playing a drumming video game is not the same as playing actual drums. In fact, my experience playing drums probably made me worse at Rock Band because I had years of muscle memory built up that I had to ignore. This was suddenly a lot harder than I expected – and being surrounded by gamers who were all playing on “Expert” level didn’t help my ego much.
But here’s the good news: it turns out that recent research on habits and behavior has shown this kind of disruption of our environment is an important part of making changes to any habit, especially the bad ones, and that’s something we can learn to use to our advantage.