Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance .
The greatest challenge of deliberate practice is to remain focused. In the beginning, showing up and putting in your reps is the most important thing. But after a while we begin to carelessly overlook small errors and miss daily opportunities for improvement . This is because the natural tendency of the human brain is to transform repeated behaviors into automatic habits. For example, when you first learned to tie your shoes you had to think carefully about each step of the process. Today, after many repetitions, your brain can perform this sequence automatically. The more we repeat a task the more mindless it becomes. Mindless activity is the enemy of deliberate practice. The danger of practicing the same thing again and again is that progress becomes assumed. Too often, we assume we are getting better simply because we are gaining experience. In reality, we are merely reinforcing our current habits—not improving them.
Perhaps the greatest difference between deliberate practice and simple repetition is this: feedback. Anyone who has mastered the art of deliberate practice—whether they are an athlete like Ben Hogan or a writer like Ben Franklin—has developed methods for receiving continual feedback on their performance. There are many ways to receive feedback. The first effective feedback system is measurement. The things we measure are the things we improve. This holds true for the number of pages we read, the number of pushups we do, the number of sales calls we make, and any other task that is important to us. It is only through measurement that we have any proof of whether we are getting better or worse. The second effective feedback system is coaching. One consistent finding across disciplines is that coaches are often essential for sustaining deliberate practice. In many cases, it is nearly impossible to both perform a task and measure your progress at the same time. Good coaches can track your progress, find small ways to improve, and hold you accountable to delivering your best effort each day.
Examples of Deliberate Practice :
Music : Many great musicians recommend repeating the most challenging sections of a song until you master them. Virtuoso violinist Nathan Milstein says, “Practice as much as you feel you can accomplish with concentration. Once when I became concerned because others around me practiced all day long, I asked [my professor] how many hours I should practice, and he said, ‘It really doesn’t matter how long. If you practice with your fingers, no amount is enough. If you practice with your head, two hours is plenty.
Cooking : Jiro Ono, the subject of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is a chef and owner of an award-winning sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Jiro has dedicated his life to perfecting the art of making sushi and he expects the same of his apprentices. Each apprentice must master one tiny part of the sushi-making process at a time—how to wring a towel, how to use a knife, how to cut the fish, and so on. One apprentice trained under Jiro for ten years before being allowed to cook the eggs. Each step of the process is taught with the utmost care. The extraordinary power of deliberate practice is that it aims at constant progress. Practitioners are not content with repeating a skill at the same level. They have metrics for measuring their performance. And they aspire to see those metrics get continuously better. While engaging in deliberate practice, we are always looking for errors or areas of weakness. Once we identify one, we establish a plan for improving it. If one approach doesn’t work, we keep trying new ones until something does. Using deliberate practice, we can overcome many limitations that we might view as fixed. We can go further than we might even think possible when we begin. Deliberate practice creates new physical and mental capabilities—it doesn’t just leverage existing ones. The more we engage in deliberate practice, the greater our capabilities become. Our minds and bodies are far more malleable than we usually realize. Deliberate practice is a universal technique, and you can employ it for whatever you’re trying to be the best (or just get a little bit better) at. It’s easiest to apply to competitive fields with clear measurements and standards, including music, dance, football/soccer, cricket, hockey, basketball, golf, horse riding, swimming, and chess. But deliberate practice is also invaluable for improving performance in fields such as teaching, nursing, surgery, therapy, programming, trading, and investing. It can even accelerate your progress in widely applicable skills such as writing, decision-making, leadership, studying, and spoken communication.
The Promise of Deliberate Practice. Humans have a remarkable capacity to improve their performance in nearly any area of life if they train in the correct way. This is easier said than done. Deliberate practice is not a comfortable activity. It requires sustained effort and concentration. The people who master the art of deliberate practice are committed to being lifelong learners—always exploring and experimenting and refining. Deliberate practice is not a magic pill, but if you can manage to maintain your focus and commitment, then the promise of deliberate practice is quite alluring: to get the most out of what you’ve got .
Dawood Peer – writer is the student activist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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