Learning from Practice

Posted on 13 May, 2012 by Paul, Sam | Read the First Comment

Practise makes perfect.
For some people, learning from practice might seem second nature – but the benefits of practising regularly at something go beyond the steady improvement you might expect.

The saying that “practice makes perfect” is oft quoted, particularly from hopeful parents to their children; so what does this mean and how can we adopt an everyday action approach that delivers greater-than-anticipated results?

What Do We Mean By Learning from Practice?

At ActionPodcast we know that regular, consistent action is far more effective (and sustainable) than spikes of intense activity. When we work at something little and often, we start building a set of skills that take us from a state of conscious effort towards automatic ability – the more you repeat something, the easier it becomes.

One form of this is described as ‘muscle memory’ whereby the repetition of a physical action becomes so ingrained that it is easier to do it naturally than to actually stop and think about it first.

In this way, practice does make perfect, and the learning of specific things through repetition enhances not just your ability but your confidence too. This is a virtuous circle, because the more confident you become, the more comfortable you feel with pushing your boundaries and the more you enjoy the experience.

Learning from Practice Requires Two Ingredients

It is these two factors – continuing to enhance your skills (by pushing the boundaries of your ability) and your intrinsic enjoyment of the process – that facilitate the cycle of learning from practice.

If you inherently enjoy the action you are taking regularly and you can see a continual improvement in your skills, then you are much more likely to move towards a state of mastery of that experience.

Ironically, this suggests that you are starting from a place of inexperience or lack of ability precipitated by either a need or a desire to do something well; and it is this assumption that can make some people feel uncomfortable.

The Value of Practising

If you are naturally good at something, it can be easy to assume that innate talent will be sufficient. We all have something specific that we find easy to do that others around us struggle with, and that ease can cause us to take it for granted. But when you love something or truly desire to be great at it, even natural ability needs to be honed, directed and nurtured.

So for Sam, the effort of working at something she loved – like playing the piano – was a sharp reminder that she wasn’t immediately brilliant at it to begin with. Despite the logic of “practice makes perfect”, this discomfort led to the question of Why should I work at something difficult when there are plenty of other things I am naturally better at?

This perspective devalued Sam’s perception of practice, and created a stumbling block that has taken three decades to overcome! Thankfully, a growing awareness and a few sources of inspiration (The Voice – Australia, Britain’s Got Talent & her partner) helped her reverse this recently.

Join Paul and Sam as they discuss how regular practice honours our ability to learn and master a skill, and boosts our confidence through joyful discipline. Committing to learning from practice of something we truly love – even if we aren’t a child prodigy – is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves; and all it could take is a little inspiration and a slight reframing of the concept of practice.

What have you always wanted to learn, but never quite been able to commit the time or define a need for? What would inspire you to allow yourself to begin at the beginning, and give it a try?

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(Sam) Absolutely loving my practice - playing a bit every day, and even doing scales is a joy! Am delighted with my progress so far :)