You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong then all you become very good at is shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and everything you do will rise – Michael Jordan
The Fundamentals of Life
Basic principles are the core of humanity’s existence. To function effectively on earth we must hone life’s fundamental principles. As I watch my daughter in her gymnastics classes, the importance of fundamentals is clarified. From cartwheels to handstands, the basics of gymnastics create the backbone for an effective gymnast. These fundamentals enhance posture, flexibility, and balance, which are crucial for more complex routines.
The instructors in my daughter’s class are intentional about body positioning and proper technique at this early stage. Why the emphasis? Because practice, whether done right or wrong, makes permanent, not perfect. The wrong way of practicing the right thing causes poor results. Great results are a reflection of practicing the right things, the right way. So, how then should we practice?
The Right Practice
James Clear, author of the best-selling and popular book, Atomic Habits, advocates for deliberate practice. Instead of aimlessly spending hours repeating an activity, deliberate practice emphasizes improving performance. With this goal in mind, deliberate practice produces progress that is visible, measurable, and rewarding. Before we talk about the outcome of deliberate practice, let’s begin with a prerequisite.
Do you have a desire only to do better but not to be better? Desire is a driving force when it comes to intentional growth. Desires are intrinsic catalysts to growth. Your desire to grow makes room for deliberate practice to take place and shapes your actions into better performance. Often we think of desires negatively, which shouldn’t be the case. Desire keeps us practicing when procrastination to knocks at the door of our minds. Nobody has ever grown to the level they are in any area of life without possessing a burning desire.
Doing and Being
Deliberate practice not only changes our doing but also changes our being, which makes it enjoyable. My blog editor Samson has helped point out areas in my writing where gaps exist. Using his feedback, I am deliberately practicing to improve the quality of my writing. This has made me a better person and writer. Additionally, using the Nike app to log my runs each day has made me a better runner. I learned the importance of tracking runs from the great marathoner Eliud Kipchoge. He logs every single workout in a notebook. He says, “When the race is hurting, I think of my great workouts and training.” This investment helped Kipchoge keep pushing until he broke the two-hour marathon mark that many viewed as impossible for any human to accomplish. Keeping track of your activity like a scorecard helps show areas where adjustments can be made for better performance.
Breaking Self-imposed limits
Deliberate practice is enhanced by perseverance. And perseverance requires consistency. Combining perseverance and consistency helps us break self-imposed limits. Whenever you engage in an activity you previously thought was difficult or impossible, you create a visual picture of what is possible, mental walls you once erected are broken, and your confidence surges.
One of my daughter’s favorite books to read is Sesame’s Street’s You Can Do It. Elmo is learning to write but keeps giving up because it is too difficult. Elmo’s mum encourages him to keep practicing. Fueled by his mum’s words, he continues to practice deliberately until he finally writes his name without any mistakes. After breaking his own mental walls and renewed confidence coursing through him, Elmo wonders who else could benefit from persevering in deliberate practice to break self-imposed limits. He sets out on a mission to help his other Sesame Street friends break their limitations.
Have you noticed how many former players are coaching in their respective sports? Their learning desire and subsequent growth have now translated into a teaching ability. They are helping young players in the game break their limits and soar into peak performance players. As you grow through deliberate practice, I believe it will open your eyes to observe and seek out others you can help. The value of deliberate practice is in the domino effect of growth it can create around you.
Final Thought: Without the possibility of growth, life would be stagnant and miserable. But growth through deliberate practice and learning makes all the difference. Whatever area of life you seek to grow, choose to set time for deliberate practice, and progress will come your way. Consistently stick with the process. You will notice that self-imposed limitations created by your environment or your own limited thinking will be broken while at the same time your desire to help others grow will rise.
Keep on keeping on.