What’s the difference between doing something and practicing doing it?
When we practice something, the consensus is, the practice is a lead-up. Framed this way, practice gets a different treatment from the ‘real thing.’ For example, doing something like taking a few practice swings to warm up and get into the groove before playing ball. Since practice gives you more space to allow and accept mistakes, it’s not as serious, nor for keeps.
With practice, you have more time to ‘get it right’ and not so much pressure to get it right as to ‘get into the flow.’ That’s how the practice of practice can give off the impression of it not being as important as ‘the real thing.’ Without, say, screaming crowds or an apprehensive, appreciative audience, you can’t be faulted for thinking that. It’s the exciting stuff that gets attention.
So, makes what’s the difference? Take your pick.
The end defines the means. The clearer the goal, the more chances you have of finding appropriate ways and means to get there. Different goals for different fields show this. And even acquiring skills are counted as goals.
Goals that require physical mastery, for example, like playing the violin or playing basketball. Each area has different requirements, but in essence on the professional level one must be able to play with the instrument of choice as if it was an extension of one’s body. It does what you want it to. For that to happen, you need to train your whole body to know what to do to produce a desired effect, whether it’s producing a trill or making the perfect overhead shot, without you having to consciously think about it.
Goals that require intellectual discernment are different. Rote memorization can be boosted by memory exercises and practice. Discernment can only be gained through exposure, trial-and-error experience, and critical thinking. It isn’t making something do what you want it to as figuring out the how and whys, before going on to such questions as, what can I do with this, how can I make it do this instead.
Limits help define what you can and can’t do in a particular situation. Limits can force us to be more creative with how we move within them, just like stretching a budget (limited funds), being fanatically good at time-management (limited time), and focused productivity (limited focus and mental energy.)
What is practice for? Getting better.
At what? You decide.
Why? Why not?
It’s safe to assume that you have examples in your life of tasks and actions that didn’t hit the bare minimum of being acceptable, the results being the difference between, ahem, committing to half-assed vs whole-assed action— putting yourself into it, all in, or just making a lackluster pass.
Presence makes a difference. Being present makes a difference. And you can practice being present. Being present means you can respond to the situation in front of you appropriately, without over-spending yourself in terms of energy, time, and attention, or over-committing/under-committing resources and labor.
- Time and space appropriate — how much do you have to give to this (now, tomorrow, next time?)
- How much do you set aside to give to this (forethought and/or pre-planning.)
- How much thought will you give to it after (follow-up — like an after action report, or a seasonal check-up?)
How many opportunities do we have to do things? Numerous times, when we pay attention.
How many opportunities to practice? Every day, all the time when we’re paying attention
This is where the divide comes in for many people.
“If you’re good you don’t need to practice at it.”
Even if you’re a ‘natural’ at something, people who practice more than you at that something can go much further. Their good becomes better, and can be better than you in the time they spend practicing. Check out Larry Bird.
- The Larry Bird Work Ethic (Hoopthoughts)
- Secrets From Larry Bird: How He Trained, and What Made Him Great (Exploring Markets)
Larry Bird Proves That He’s Still Got It During Pacers Practice (Tristan Thornburgh, Bleach Report)
Stephen King cranks out two thousand words a day. Maybe that’s just okay for some people, but he does that every day. And his writing career shows how well this steady practice works.
- Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer (Jon Morrow, Smartblogger)
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
“I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book — something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh.”
Think of the conditioning it takes to be a professional athlete; It’s not just the advantage nature gives you, it’s the training. And what is practice but training?
Now thing of what it takes to be, say, a professional business owner, or an entrepreneur.
The difference lies in how involved you are. ‘Half-assing’ and ‘ phoning it in’ — these are both metaphors for doing rote work — means doing the barest minimum to qualify. Your presence makes the difference between scraping by, and doing well .How committed you are to action shows how committed you are to your goals.
There’s always something new to discover when you keep working at improvement. That’s what patient practice is for.
Set aside reaching the grand finale (this isn’t meant morbidly) and see life as a journey. There’s a final stop at the end, but what you choose to do in the meantime can take to all sorts of fascinating, good places, if you pay attention
It’s being involved instead of watching people and life from the sidelines. It’s taking advantage of the life you have, and the time you have, to mold your life into a presence in the world. Your work, your development, your products and services can make a difference. Deliberate practice can ripple out into the services you provide and the products you create — it’s an added richness, a nuance that enhances the whole process.
Whether you call it craftsmanship, attention to detail, quality control, research and development, paying attention to ‘how you do things ” (a practice) and how you do things (your presence) can inject meaning into your life and your work, reviving both.
Practice– the deliberate use of effort, attention and concentration — sounds a lot like praxis. You’re here. You’re right here. Pay attention, life can go by so fast and you won’t remember most of it if you’re not paying attention, so get into the practice. You won’t regret it.
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