Practice is a powerful tool for developing and sustaining skills. But for many people, the word has negative connotations.
Why? Well, how many of you remember being called inside to practice the piano when you wanted to be playing with your friends? Definitely not fun.
In addition, practice can feel boring and/or painful at times. Think about the bumps and bruises involved in learning a new gymnastics skill. Or how about learning the basics of writing code or of speaking Chinese or French or German? Practice usually involves a lot of time and a lot of repetition. It’s not something you’d often call fun.
And then there’s that expression: “Practice makes perfect.”
I can’t think of a more daunting and discouraging way to frame this pursuit. If ‘perfect’ is the goal of your practice, you are going to feel perennially disappointed in yourself. And that’s a set-up for stepping away from practice entirely.
Focus on Progress
Practice is a step-by-step process. The benefits are incremental, and at times, it may be difficult to know whether you are making progress.
Continuing a practice when you’re not seeing the benefit is challenging. So that’s why I suggest that you keep a brief learning log. Take a moment after each practice session and make note of what you learned.
This gives you, over time, a clear record of your progress. You may be surprised at some of the things you learn. Sometimes you’ll be noting gains that have to do with the skill you’re practicing. And sometimes you’ll be learning about yourself.
The more you work with this log, the better you’ll get at recognizing your gains. And as you improve your ability to see and acknowledge your progress, just watch your motivation soar. This keeps you practicing, which can’t help but build your skills — a win-win.
Let go of perfectionism…
And remember, what’s vital here are the practice and the process. Your goal is not an endpoint but an ongoing process of continual improvement. And getting to ‘perfect’ is, quite simply, impossible.
Perfectionism eats up the energy and undermines the confidence of countless bright, energetic, and talented people. Are you one of them?
Well, my hope for you, as we start a new year, is that you embrace practice as an empowering tool for yourself. And at the same time, I hope you’ll let go of the unattainable goal of perfectionism.