Does Practice make Perfect?

Practice makes perfect

If you are on the path of self-growth and development, you will be familiar with the idea that practice is essential.  You may experience quick-wins, but if you are to have sustained and on-going growth, practice is a given.  Quick-wins are great.  They show you what is possible.  Then you need to put in the graft to make that possibility an on-going and repeatable reality.  You want to have it in your bones so that you have access to it at will.

Why is practice so important

In our busy lives, we often do not feel like we have time to practice.  There are always reasons why you do not have time to do something.  The question is, “Do you want things to stay the same, or change for the better?”  If you want things to be better, you want to set intention and then practice until that intention becomes manifest.

Without practice, the quick-wins do not become permanent change or growth.  Practice allows your body to set down the new wiring of your nervous system.  It also beds in the new pathways so that they are more likely to be used.  At the same time, the old pathways are being dismantled.  If the body is not using them, it has no need for them and so it breaks them down and recycles the parts.  That is why “perfect practice makes perfect”. This is an expression a friend and mentor of mine says and it has become a mantra for me.

Make the time to practice diligently whatever new habits you want to learn and embed.  Take the time to practice the technique right and you are supporting your body in creating new, more empowering habits and letting out-dated habits go.  This can be applied to physical activities such as running faster or further or mountain climbing, learning a skill like playing the piano or listening more deeply and embedding new mind-sets, for example, around money, work processes or health.

Intention

What are your desired outcomes? There is a pain you want to address- what are you willing to do to achieve that?  There is a problem you want to solve- what changes do you want to see? What practical steps are you going to take to get there?

You start from the inside out.  With emotion.  What is driving you?  A lack of confidence? Financial freedom?  Better relationships with your partner, children, friends, colleagues?  Clarity on life purpose?  More fulfilling work?  These are all emotive topics- particularly if you experience pain around them.

And these emotions drive your intention.  They act like a magnet that aligns you physically, mentally and emotionally.  From this place, you are more likely to take action.  But it has to be the right kind of action or you will not achieve your goal.

“What” do you practice?

So, practice with intention. Be specific and focus on your goals and desired outcomes.  Be intentional.  Whether it is a practical skill like martial arts or driving a car you wish to perfect or developing your leadership style or your competency as a solopreneur, intention and practice will be central to your success.

Learn from others what is required.  Have a mentor, teacher or guide.  Hone your skill.  Become an expert.  Practice whatever you require to excel.

The Challenge

You will meet challenges.  Your body resists change.  All biological systems strive for balance.  Growth and changing behaviour throw the system that is you out of balance.  So, the system fights back to maintain the status quo.  If you come at this from a perspective of patience and compassion, you will give yourself the time and opportunity to practice.  In time the new way of doing things will become the status quo.  And while it serves you, there is no reason to change it.  Once it stops serving you, change and growth are required to move things forward and take the next step.

Are you practising to be technically better? There is benefit in honing your practical skills so that you can perform well in any activity. Martial Arts is full of technical considerations. Life coaching requires a particular skill set that can be improved. Any activity requires practice of skills. Learn impeccable technical knowledge and practice endlessly those basic skills that are the foundation of all the advanced techniques. Writing with a pen, driving a car, golf swings, listening skills, dance steps- all have technical skills to practice. This is the “what” of your practice.

“How” do you practice?

“How” you practice is just as important as “what” you practice

It is not all about “what” you do.  There is also the “how” of your practice. By which I mean, what qualities are you using and cultivating when you are doing your practice? Are you developing cold and clinical execution or passion-filled expression driven by the emotion of the moment? Do you drive yourself to complete a certain number of repetitions or achieve something in a specific window of time? Or are you freer in your practice and go by what feels right?

In an earlier blog, I explained the 4 elements. This is a convenient way to describe qualities you might cultivate in your practice. Earth is more technical and precision based. Water more flowing and relational. Fire focuses on directness and driving through. While Air is lighter, creative and spontaneous.

How does the “how” you do something serve you?  You may want to be really efficient at updating your book-keeping but this approach may not work when building a vision for your business or dreaming up a family holiday.  Taking time to build rapport may be incredibly important in building relationships but serve you less when trying to meet a deadline or getting the kids to school.  Embodying the 4 elements can be a way of exploring the “how” of your practice so that you make the most of your time and get the most from each moment.

Perfect practice makes perfect

Only you can decide what is perfect for you.  There is no absolute right way or wrong way.  It is all about getting the results you want.  If life does not feel amazing, then there is room for improvement.  How can you tap into your own potential to create more of the life you want for yourself?  Are you earning the money you want?  Do you feel fulfilled in your work as you would like to?  Are your relationships with family and friends as you would wish?  Are your health, fitness and well-being at the level you want?  Does life feel balanced?  Or are you out of whack?

Over to you

So, look at the areas of your life that work and celebrate.  No, really.  Congratulate yourself on a job well done.  Savour the success- be it being able to pick up the kids from school and having quality play time with them during the week or feeling that your work contributes to society in a meaningful way to you.  You made that happen.  Celebrate that.

And those areas that need work, find out what will work better and practice.  Work out what you need to do and how you do it for greater success, well-being and happiness.  I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned.  And if you would like some support to work out what you want to be different and how to achieve that, please reach out.

Pass it on

If you found this blog useful, please pass it on to anyone you know who might find it interesting as well.  Thank you.

How do your patterns and preferences affect your daily life?

Inspiration

I was inspired to write this blog because of a post on LinkedIn by Anne Archer.  She referred to listening as a superpower.  As a coach and a Samaritans volunteer, I would definitely say that listening is a superpower.  However, this skill that I have cultivated over many years is also an example of patterns and preferences that can be incredibly useful and powerful.  They can also hold us back when used in situations when other actions might be more appropriate.

Listening

I have developed a skill in listening because I was so painfully shy, I preferred shrinking into the shadows and giving other people the limelight.  I would ask them questions and deflect the attention away from me.  As soon as they asked me anything, I would answer briefly, followed by another question.  I didn’t want to be seen or have the focus on me, so I learned to listen and ask questions.  This pattern has led to me playing small and not sharing my experience and wisdom with others.  It has also allowed me to give time and space to people to speak about challenging life circumstances, discover insights about themselves, reflect on choices and actions they have taken and share intimately their hopes, fears and doubts.  So you see, patterns and preferences are neither good nor bad.  It depends when and how you use them and whether they serve you and others in the most appropriate and empowering way.

Patterns and Preferences

Awareness of patterns and preferences gives you freedom and choice

Listening is just one example of my patterns and preferences. I am also prone to worry and anxiety, saying “sorry”, even when it isn’t necessary, not resting and working long hours and eating when I am bored or for comfort.  I do these things unconsciously most of the time.  They are not bad in themselves.  But when done unconsciously, we begin to lose choice, freedom and power within our lives.

Sometimes patterns and preferences have a positive impact. But the same lack of choice and control still applies. I am also prone to generosity, giving my time freely, I love to help others and cooking healthy meals.  And of course, I love to listen.  If you want to live a life of meaning and purpose, I think it is important to be conscious of your patterns and preferences so that you can be at choice.  To live on autopilot or defaulting to your habits may be convenient, but it can lead to disempowerment and take you away from your purpose and power in life.

Patterns and preferences are a compassionate way of looking at your habits. No judgement about whether they are wrong or right, good or bad.  It is about observation and awareness that ultimately leads to choice.  It isn’t always the best thing to listen.  Sometimes speaking out is important.

How can you notice your patterns and preferences?

By definition, patterns and preferences are so engrained in your mind and body, you often do not realise you are doing them.  Your neurobiology lends itself to creating patterns and preferences so save on time and energy (you can find a past blog I wrote about this here.  Recall your first few days at a new job.  They are tiring and time consuming, learning new tasks and processes.  Or learning to drive.  Using all those controls and manoeuvring through traffic take all your attention.  And then one day, those new activities are easy to do and you give them far less thought and energy.  Your body is excellent at making regular activities economical, moving those processes into your subconscious so that they happen automatically.  The challenge is they are often hard to notice as they happen below your conscious awareness.

Also, you may not connect your patterns and preferences to specific outcomes and therefore miss the impact you have on the people and the world around you.  Getting regular feedback from friends, family and colleagues can be a useful tool.  Make sure you can trust them to be truthful and kind with their reflections, otherwise it can become a painful experience that leads to greater resistance to change.

Do something different

Taking up new activities is a brilliant way to notice patterns and preferences.  Or doing the same thing in a different way.  Both will highlight what feels familiar to you mentally, physically and emotionally.  As I mentioned in a recent blog, I have taken up Tango.  What I require from my body is completely different to martial arts- Tango asks for freedom in the chest and shoulders while martial arts requires a more solid and rigid centre.

My mind set is totally different too- one of relationship, leading, following and passion in Tango rather than one of domination and control which martial arts can be prone to.  The learning environment also exposes patterns- group classes give you a place to hide and be less precise and disciplined with technique, while private lessons offer greater feedback and focus.  Conversely, group lessons give you a chance to dance with many people, while private lessons don’t offer that diversity.

Freedom and Choice

No one way is right or wrong.  I mention them to highlight patterns and preferences.  What do you prefer? What feels familiar?  Think of something that you do regularly.  Brushing your teeth? Dressing? Communicating with your partner, children, work peers, your boss, the checkout person at the supermarket? Are you quiet at parties or the life and the soul? How do you do it? Could you do it differently? What would it be like to do it differently? How does it feel to change it? What does it tell you about your patterns and preferences? How might the outcome be different if you did it differently?

The more aware you become, the more freedom you have to choose your actions and how you take action.  Who are you being when you speak to people?  And how are you being when you are doing it?  Mind and body are one integrated whole.  Mind set and how you are you in your body are intimately connected.  You can use mind and body as entry points to developing that awareness.  And with that awareness comes freedom and choice.

Over to You

What are your patterns and preferences?  What could you do differently?  Once you notice them, how do your patterns and preferences serve you? How do they not serve you? Do you want to make changes as a consequence? What would those changes be? I’d love to hear about your experiments and discoveries. Please post them in the comments box or if you prefer, e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk and we can explore your findings together.