How do you get better at something? Practice! But, not all practice makes perfect, so how do you know you’re practicing to improve?
In this edition of Thrive in Five, learn about deliberate practice, and the steps you can take to ensure you’re practicing to get better.
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What is Practice?
According to Merriam Webster:
However, if you just repeat something over and over, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get better. For example, take 30 seconds to sign your signature over and over. Take a look at the first signature versus the last signature you sign in that 30 seconds. Which is better? If you notice that your signatures got better, then you’re practicing to improve! If you notice your signature got worse, then you might benefit from reading the rest of this Thrive in Five.
If you’re practicing because you want to get better at something, then you need to make sure you’re deliberately practicing. Follow these steps to ensure your practice is set up for success!
- Find something motivating that you want to get better at. If you’re not motivated and energized by this thing you’re practicing for, it will be hard to push past any frustration you might feel once you start practicing.
- Set specific, realistic goals. Like any goal or resolution, having a light at the end of the tunnel helps keep motivation up. Having something specific that you’re working towards helps keep your eye on the prize and gives you a finish line, so-to-speak. This also addresses how many things you’re trying to improve at one time. If you’re practicing public speaking, first practice the words itself, then appropriate hand movements, then walking around the room, etc. Be deliberate about how you practice, but also what you practice.
- Push against your comfort zone. In order to get better at something, you have to practice something you’re most likely not good at. Seems like common sense, but it’s uncomfortable sometimes! Embrace the discomfort knowing that if you don’t push your comfort zone, you won’t improve to your highest capability in that skill.
- Be consistent and persistent. This is where being motivated and having a goal comes in. In order to improve, you have to practice frequently and even when it’s hard or uncomfortable. Having something to work towards and being motivated by the skill acts as fuel during times when you don’t feel like practicing.
- Seek feedback. Either ask someone else for feedback, or if possible, use yourself for feedback. For example, if the skill your practicing is public speaking, record yourself giving a speech, watch it, take notes on improvement suggestions, and practice some more with your notes in mind.
- Take time to recover. Deliberate practice is hard, and takes a lot of energy. Having the expectation that you can practice deliberately all day is unrealistic. Only practice as much as you can stay focused and stay deliberate, whether it’s 30 minutes or 3 hours.
Apply the Five!
Find one thing that you want to get better at, and write out a plan to make sure you’re practicing deliberately. Some questions to consider are:
- What is the end goal?
- What are the specific, realistic, stepping-stone goals leading to the end goal?
- How will you get feedback on your skill as you practice?
- What is your practice schedule to keep you consistent and persistent? (Pro tip: It takes 30 days to develop a ritual, so if you do something around the same time every day for 30 days, it will be a normal part of your routine!)
- How will you hold yourself accountable to practicing?
Learn How Evans Thrives!
What better way to inspire you to thrive than to hear about real people making it happen? And what better way to learn about Evans than to make those real people Evans employees?
Meet Aaron Malone!
I’ve been a musician for the past 31 years, and the following has become clear – practice never leads to perfection, can often lead to faults, and even when employed properly, can reveal just how much more practice is needed. I have found the better you become at a task, the more clearly you can identify other areas for improvement, and that is a never-ending cycle.
I believe it is often ignored how practice can in fact lead in the wrong direction. For me, the old adage “practice makes perfect” gives an incorrect expectation that simply repeating a process or action will lead to improvement. From my experience, the most important aspect of practice is the thought process and mental preparation that takes place prior to practice. Countless hours of time can be lost, and the creation of bad habits/techniques can embed themselves into your psyche and physical conditioning. However, by taking the time to analyze what the goal is and what method of practice is best, practice times can be reduced from many hours to minutes in some cases, along with improved performance.
Ultimately, perfection is not the goal – however, thoughtful preparation and mindfulness are the keys to continual improvement.
Here are some tips for how to practice:
- Identify the area requiring improvement.
- Identify a method for improvement.
- Employ that method repeatedly, actively seeking slight improvements with each repetition.
- Be open-minded that your identified method of practice may be faulty, and reassess if the method should be changed.
- Continue ad infinitum.
Until Next Time…
The Evans Thrive Team
(Nicole, Kaitlin, Laura, Bob, and Sean)
(This image was adapted from a commonly shared internet image.)