Practice moves you from where you are today to where you want to be. It provides learning and growth, builds skills, creates new habits, and cultivates resilience and strength. And that’s just a handful of its many benefits.
Consistent practice creates extraordinary results.
What practice doesn’t do is make perfect.
A quick trip down memory lane: perfect was a total bust.
I was nine years old and playing in a piano recital. No, I wasn’t a child prodigy. 😉 I was part of a group of kids performing at the local public library to an audience of proud parents and bored siblings.
When it was my turn, I completely blanked. I played a few notes, but the music I’d memorized was stuck in some inaccessible part of my brain. I sat frozen in shame, then burst into tears and ran off the stage, utterly humiliated.
That was bad enough, but after the recital my piano teacher felt it was helpful to tell me, “You didn’t practice enough, and practice is what makes perfect.”
Gah. How about I was nine years old and overcome with stage fright?!!
I hated practicing after that.
I actually liked playing the piano, but in my mind, practicing and playing were now two separate activities. Practicing had become completely connected to success or failure; playing wasn’t in the picture any more.
But you do need to practice to move from point A to point B. And the desire to get to B is what motivates you to begin the practice.
That’s true whether you want to master a new skill, train for a triathlon, become more mindful, learn to manage stress differently, prepare for a piano recital, or whatever it is that you’re working towards.
But if you approach practice as nothing more than a means to an end, you’ll miss out its true power: learning and growth, the cultivation of resilience, strength, and stick-to-itive-ness, and the development of new positive habits.
Magic happens when you embrace your practice as valuable in and of itself.
The act of practicing creates change that transcends your goal. Ultimately, you’re transformed by the practice itself.
And that’s what happened to my client Joanna when she took on a 90-day confidence practice.
Joanna was being considered for promotion to senior vice president of her division, a position that would be open in six months. The only outstanding question for her management was whether she had the self-confidence to play at senior levels in the company.
Ergo, the 90-day confidence practice.
The impetus for the practice was the potential promotion, yet Joanna quickly embraced the value of building her confidence regardless of the outcome. And that opened the space for her to genuinely build confidence, learning to act with more self-assurance in a way that was authentic for her.
What was involved in her practice?
Every day she practiced ONE thing and as she mastered each one, we customized the next activity.
For example, she started out by practicing (out loud) her answer to the question, “Why do you believe you’ll be a great senior executive” and noticed if her answer felt authentic. She kept practicing, every day, until she had an answer that rang true for her.
Yes, it took time and yes, there were moments of frustration. But the payoff was huge.
Joanna did get the promotion. (Yay!) But that’s not the point of this story, because her confidence practice had a much broader impact than the promotion.
Her stress around the impending decision dropped.
She became more comfortable putting ideas on the table that challenged the status quo.
Best of all, she started giving herself full permission to be who she is, rather than who others expected her to be. And that has transformed her life.
The magic of consistent practice is that it’s always working.
If you’re drawing a straight line from practice to THERE, you’re missing the point.
In Joanna’s case, she was promoted, but there were still plenty of ups and downs in those six months. Even now, two years later, she has the occasional crisis of confidence.
So practice didn’t make perfect.
It did something better.
About 45 days into the practice, she said, “I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get the promotion, but it no longer feels like my world will be rocked. I can see so many more possibilities for myself now.”
That’s practice in action!
What are you working toward?
Whatever it is, do something consistently every day – practice! – to move yourself closer to your goal.
And, even more importantly, embrace your practice as important unto itself, knowing that you’ll create something that has value far beyond achieving your goal.
“You are what you practice most.” ~ Richard Carlson