Deliberately Gentle Practice

There’s a lot of buzz now about deliberate practice, and rightfully so.  It’s the kind of practice that leads to expertise.

Deliberate practice is goal directed.  It provides the practitioner with feedback: you did this well, you struggled with that.  It focuses on the stuff you struggle with, and consequently it’s difficult.  You do that hard stuff again and again till you get it right. 

I am not an expert.  Don’t get the idea that I’m writing this blog because I am.  I’m writing this blog because I have struggled with practice all of my life, and because I’m convinced nearly everything worthwhile in life comes out of some kind of practice.

When I was young I hated to run.  I would set myself a goal to go out and run five miles, or maybe 40 forty yard wind sprints.  I’d be in agony, and probably not finish.  The next day I’d find a reason not to do it.

When I was in college one of my roommates, a guy who had won the state cross country championship, had a book called The Zen of Running.  I picked it up one day and opened it up to a page that read something like this: “Just go out and run.  Feel the joy of it.  And when you don’t enjoy it anymore, stop.

This one idea totally revolutionized my practice: practice as long as you enjoy it, and when you stop enjoying it, go on to something else.

I began to run – regularly.  Instead of dreading the run, I began to look forward to it.  It was a joyful experience, particularly if it was a bright sunny day.  I would go for a run, and immediately the tensions of the day would begin to melt away.

Now I have never won a race, but I did learn to make running a regular part of my day, a practice.  And my life was much better for it.

4 thoughts on “Deliberately Gentle Practice

  1. On the Internet there is an ebook called “The Art of Practicing”, written by a father who explains how his daughters learn to play the piano. He was particularly amazed by the way their teacher taught them how to practice, which he found very different from his own ideas about practicing.

    It was an eye-opener for me when I first read it, because although it didn’t solve all my problems, it got me thinking differently about “practice”.

    As I continue my search, I find the books by Moshe Feldenkrais extremely helpful.

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