2/22/2009

Perfecting Perfect Practice



As part of my quest to improve my life experiences, I've come to a place where I am completely sold on the idea of practice to make perfect. I remember reading a book a couple of years ago where the author shared his story about the value of practice. The author was not only an advocate for practice, he spoke about perfect practice.

Perfect practice is the art of learning slowly and accurately the actions required to perform an act in an excellent fashion. Years ago, I shunned the idea of preparing and practicing for an event. I believed that my natural talent and the rush of adrenaline would be enough to create a picture perfect result each and every time. I was half right. Some of my results would surprise me because of how great things worked out. Sometimes on the other hand, I'd experience less than exceptional results. When the latter occurred, I'd simply dismiss my poor performance by reminding myself that I hadn't had time to prepare. If I would have prepared, I'd think to myself, I would have done a fantastic job.

At one point in time, leaving my results to chance would have been acceptable. Now that I am focusing my efforts of steady growth, I find that practicing for perfection is the only hope I have of being able to produce above average performance time and time again.

So what exactly is perfect practice? Learning your skill in a deliberate manner to bring about a specific outcome is perfect practice. Whenever you are learning a new skill or are fine tuning the rough spots on what you do today, you should always seek to learn the most fundamental techniques that lead to a great looking finished product. Taking the time to adequately learn every step will actually lengthen your learning time but what you are essentially doing is creating an embedded program that will direct your performance later on. Learning each step is not enough, the steps must be learned to as close a perfect as possible.

Whenever we are performing an activity whether its doing our regular job, playing a sport, presenting information, whatever it may be, our goal should be to practice in a perfect way that will create a better result each and every time. How do you do that? Here are some of my ideas.

Start with a goal

Unless you enter your practice with an intention to improve, you are giving yourself permission to continue on the same path of mediocre performance. You continue to embed the program of following the same steps that you always follow. Unless you change it, you allow yourself to experience the same frustrations repeatedly. What you want to do instead is decide what you want to improve upon every time you take an action. For instance, if you want to get more work done in less time at work, you should tell yourself the results you want to achieve. Just as an athlete knows the time she has to beat, so should you know what your goal for the activity should be.

End with an evaluation
Unless you take a moment to honestly evaluate your performance, you will not be able to glean any value or benefits from the activity. Did you perform as well as you hoped? What do you need to look out for next time in order to get better? These are the types of questions that help you move your level of performance forward.

Stretch your limits
Improvements in performance only truly happen when a person decides to step outside of her comfort zone. If we avoid situations that can contribute to our growth then we become our own worst enemy. If growth is your objective then slightly uncomfortable situations are your friend. The more uncomfortable those situations are to you, the better you become if you decide to take on the challenge. Whenever something becomes too easy for you, its time to move to the next level so you are careful not to stagnate your growth. The best way to identify if you are within your comfort zone is to analyze whether or not you perform your activities unconsciously. If you complete your tasks mindlessly then you are probably operating in the realm of comfort. Becoming better means that you will have to "get in the game" mentally as well as physically.

Now that you are aware of the differences between simply doing and practicing, decide today if you want to continue down do what you've always done or if you want to improve ever so slightly every day. Practice is the doorway to improvement and perfect practice is the key that unlocks the door.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My local golf range has the motto, 'Practice Makes Permanent, not Perfect'