How would you finish the sentence: Practice makes _______?
Practice makes perfect is the most common ending to that sentence.
Less popular, but no less true sentences would be:
Practice can make you better (or not).
Practice makes you crazy.
Practice makes you want to quit/give up.
Practice is necessary.
By now we’ve all heard the study that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Think Tiger Woods and golf, Bill Gates and computer programming. You get the picture. When you are really motivated to do something, or when it is something that really interests you, practicing is a challenge and a joy to do. You want to get better so you practice and practice some more. You see the results and any little improvement serves as motivation to keep going, doing and pushing forward.
But what about the things that don’t come so easily? Practice in those cases feels like a chore, something you HAVE to do even though you don’t enjoy it very much.
My son loves baseball. I joke with friends that if I had the energy he would practice with me nonstop all day long. It is his passion, he loves it and practicing baseball is something he enjoys very much. Whether it’s a dropped fly ball or a swing and a miss, he is self-motivated to try it again and again (and again) until he gets it right. It is not work for him; it is pure enjoyment. On the other hand, reading is not something he particularly likes. First of all, it requires sitting still for a period of time, something that is not easy for an active eight year old. Second, it’s just not something that he truly enjoys (which is especially hard for me to relate to as a lifelong book lover). So for all of these reasons, he’s not super excited to sit down and read for his nightly homework assignment. I’ve started to relate reading to practicing – having to sound out a word is no different than dropping a pop fly. Just because you drop it doesn’t mean you quit playing forever. No, you figure out what you did wrong and try to do it better the next time.
As adults it gets easier to avoid the things that require practice. If you are not good at something or not interested in getting better, you just don’t do it. But if we are all honest with ourselves, we would realize that practice is on-going and never ending. There is always something that we must practice – it may be a physical task related to your job, or exercise, or diet. Or it may even be interpersonal practice – figuring out how to get along with a co-worker or resolve a misunderstanding with a friend. Or it may just be being a parent – we’re all just practicing aren’t we? You practice handling a situation with your kids in the best way you know possible in that moment. If it doesn’t work out, then you learn from it and use it to guide you the next time.
What I know now is that the old saying is wrong, practice never makes perfect. Practice often makes you better, but there’s no guarantee. (Ever tried to play golf?) Practice certainly helps us learn, improve and know more for next time. The only thing that is for sure is that practice is never over.
Journal on this: What practice have you been avoiding?
p.s. Tomorrow is our next Journal 2 Joy workshop! Visit http://www.balancedheartcoaching.com/journal-2-joy.html for all the details!
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.