On Practice

Pretty much everyone has a relationship to practice. It's a very common word that evokes all kinds of associations and meanings. Practice makes perfect. Practice what you preach. Without practice you’ll never improve. I can't right now, I have to practice.

Learning requires practice, whether stacking blocks, forming thoughts into words, or riding a bike. For many there was a clear shift when we were young between things coming easily to us and having to work harder at them. Right after that, can often be a sense of, ‘if things don’t come easily, I must not be good at them. If I have to practice what comes easily to others, they must be better, more talented, smarter… etc

Where does the notion come from that we should be good at things quickly, and why is it so challenging to see the benefit of practice in and of itself. Most skills and art forms require practice that is both thoughtful and deliberate. People at the highest levels of expertise in music and dance will still practice, regularly for hours. Mastery is rarely simply achieved, and also requires nurturing to be maintained.

In this excellent article titled “my 11 year old son auditioned at Juilliard” the author shares her insight into what it means to practice effectively. When the goal is the only focus, practice can feel hollow and boring. Alexander described this entirely too common phenomenon as end-gaining. How to stay engaged in the process, to find new angles of exploration, to change the variables, to build resiliency to making mistakes, these are just a few of the reasons why we practice. The overall improvement to the performance, is merely a by-product.

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