NaBloPoMo 2021: Do Good, Kid
What skill do you really wish to perform better? What have you already mastered? What is/are the difference/s between the two? What skills really matter in life?
Skiing, volleyball, piano, mindfulness, painting, violin, swimming, sewing, writing–what else comes to mind? When we think of elite athletes, performers, and practitioners, how do we picture them? What do we imagine their daily lives look and feel like? Medicine is referred to as a ‘practice,’ even for our most emeritus professors. When it’s your job, you train and drill for excellence and mastery—like a professional. Read bestselling author Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic to see what it took to finally trust her writing to make her a living.
But what about other stuff? What if nobody’s paying you money, accolades, or even attention for doing something that’s important to you to do—maybe things like self-awareness and –regulation, critical thinking, and all things leadership? Seems to me that you have to be pretty intrinsically motivated to stay on the treadmill of these skills. And hobbies like Hubs’s fly fishing or my sibs’ marathoning—what’s behind that drive for ascendancy and achievement? And what is the payoff for all that practice?
First, when we practice in mundane conditions, we develop the muscle memory to apply when challenge or threat escalates. This is the fundamental mechanism of repetitive drills and exercises—passing, setting, serving, blocking, sprawling, hitting, footwork, ad nauseum. We chunk individual mechanical movements, integrate them in innocuous and clunky simulation, smoothing and polishing along the way, all so that when competition comes around and stakes are high—it’s not so safe anymore—we can bring both calm, confident intuition and excited, anticipatory alertness to meet the task. When I practice asking open, honest questions in friendly, everyday conversations, I’m far more likely to exercise curiosity and slow judgment when encounters turn tense and relationships are at risk. Looking back on a spate of intra- and interpersonal challenges in recent years, and then back farther at the past decade-plus of self-development study, I can see how slow, steady practice has progressively manifested as confidence, competence, and overall relational success.
Second, when we give ourselves the space (physical, mental and other) and time to practice regularly—to make proficiency consistent, autonomous, and masterful—eventually we get to play. During unfocused chord progression exercises, a new melody emerges from the amateur composer’s subconscious. While repeating a basic skill at an advanced level, a player noodles, creating a new method that others then adopt as standard technique. Routine from practice affords exploration and experimentation. We progress from rote imitation to original invention by way of stubborn accomplishment. It’s starting to feel this way for me—that all of this study now gives me the confidence to assert my own ideas for what constitutes a life well lived—Duh-HA!
…Or, practice simply heightens our own enjoyment and personal reward. Either way, life is better, no?
So what practice inspires your commitment today?