“Use it or lose it” isn’t just a folksy saying—it’s a law of biology. Jim Rohn used to illustrate the point this way: “If you tie your arm to your body and leave it there long enough, you’ll never use it again.” Not subtle, but true. Whatever we don’t use, we lose.

  • If a professional speaker quits speaking, she’ll gradually forfeit her polish and poise at the podium.
  • If a musician stops playing his instrument, his hard-won technique will dissipate.
  • If a surgeon hasn’t touched a scalpel in 6 months, I don’t want him operating on me!

We sometimes forget that emotional skills need to be kept up, too.

  • If we let complaining take root in our lives, we’ll see more of the bad in the world and less of the good.
  • If we stop mentally walking in others’ shoes, we’ll become colder and less empathetic.
  • If we stop treating people with dignity—especially those less powerful than we—part of our humanity will dry up.

The good news is that we can relearn all these skills, and usually in far less time than it took to develop them the first time around.

But it’s always easier to maintain than to relearn.