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Muscle Memory

Muscle memory is a funny thing. Over time, it makes the oddest and most uncomfortable habits–good and bad–feel like second nature to us. It feels unnatural for a child to trust his safety to a bike on two wheels until his body memorizes what it feels like to ride with ease. No one sets out to create a habit of biting their nails when they are anxious–and yet for many people, this becomes a memorized stress response that their bodies just activate without thinking.

Muscle memory has a lasting effect. I’ve known ex-smokers who many years after kicking the habit, feel confident that they could easily slide back into the addiction if given the chance. We’ve all heard of people who have suffered extensive memory loss but can still perform the day-to-day tasks that their muscles memorized long ago.

Given the power of muscle memory, I believe it makes sense to focus our efforts on forming habits and patterns in Birmingham that–over time–will become automatic and drive our region into growth and prosperity.

To see success in Birmingham, we must identify those healthy habits that feel uncomfortable and refuse to stop doing them until they become the most natural thing in the world.

It is unnatural for businesses, health care companies, government agencies, educational institutions, charitable organizations and others to align under one vision to move our community forward.

But imagine what we could accomplish if we all viewed our organizational goals through the lens of what is best for our region–not just through the lens of profit margins, ownership or notoriety. A great question to ask ourselves is, “Do the people we serve deserve to benefit from the synergy that can happen when we lay our personal agendas aside?” I believe the answer is a resounding yes.

It is unnatural to defer glory and credit so that we can uplift each other and show our community how much we value collaboration.

And yet that’s exactly the type of behavior that we need to allow our muscles to memorize. If I’m lifting you up and you’re lifting me up, then it stands to reason that we’ll all have our moment to shine. Birmingham has the potential to be at the forefront of growth and progress. The quickest path there is to lean into the strength that comes from pooling our resources.

Here we are–at a fork in the road. In the past, Birmingham has been perceived as a place where politics and “looking out for me and mine” stood in the way of real change. I’m confident that we will defeat this perception, but it’s going to take us all getting uncomfortable to make it happen.

The thing about old muscle memory is that it can sabotage success if we allow it. Former habits and mentalities rob us of our hard-earned achievements when we let them drag us back into unsuccessful patterns.

For every step forward, an obsession with having our own names on a program or initiative can knock us five steps back.

For every five steps forward, undermining each other’s work in the community can knock us ten steps back.

I understand that in today’s world, those actions feel comfortable. They feel like home. However, through creative collaboration, we can build a space that is open to ALL the best ideas and the brightest vision that our city can offer.

That’s the Birmingham that I want to call home.

Ron Kitchens serves as the CEO of The Birmingham Business Alliance. Driven by the belief that the greatest force for change is a job, Ron works to equip businesses with the resources they need to create more and better jobs. For a dose of business inspiration, text “ALWAYS FORWARD” to 55444 to receive a daily business quote. Ron can be reached at

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Jack Ross
Oct 26, 2022

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