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Deliberate Practice

By now, most people are familiar with the concept that if you want to achieve excellence in sports, music, art, or any other field you must be willing to practice properly, under the guidance of a teacher or coach, 10,000 hours. For example, if you want to be a professional golfer of a world class musician, it takes 5 years of 40-hour weeks, 50 weeks a year to perfect the skill sets necessary to accomplish this. It also helps to have some innate talent.


Well, what if you don't have 10,000 hours to spare and you don’t want to be a professional golfer or world class musician but just a good golfer, acceptable musician or even a very good communicator, you could use the concept of deliberate practice, the efficiency in honing specific skills. This technique was coined by psychologist K Anders Erickson. Unlike casual or mindless repetition, deliberate practice involves breaking down a skill into its components and targeting the areas that need improvement. Learning how to hit perfect sand shots from greenside bunkers, or learning the major and minor scales so you can effortlessly come up with he right riffs or just become a great storyteller are outcomes that can be achieved with deliberate practice in relatively short periods of time with the correct effort.


Another benefit of deliberate practice is the development of perseverance. By pushing one’s limits, and confronting difficulties, one can build resilience which is essential for maintaining the motivation to overcome constantly changing challenges. In dynamic fields, where change is constant, such adaptability is necessary for staying competitive and achieving long term success.


I remember watching Tiger woods in a prestigious golf tournament being faced with a downhill plugged lie in a sand trap where the green was surrounded by water and sloping away from the trap that Tiger was in. With one foot in the trap and the other foot two feet higher on the bank of the trap, Tiger performed what many thought was a miracle by putting the ball 8 inches from the hole.

The very next day, another professional golfer was faced with the same shot. His name was Padraig Harrington and he hit it out of the sand trap into the water.


Now this was a shot that if you play golf ever week you might come across it once every two years and yet Tiger admitted to deliberately practicing a similar shot often. That showed the level of dedication he had as compared to Padraig who had never practiced that shot. Some would argue that it was not worth deliberately practicing a shot you would hardly ever be confronted with unless you had Tigers Wood’s standard of excellence.


Another thing worth mentioning is that deliberate practice contributes to the development of a growth mindset. Unlike a fixed mindset, which sees abilities as innate and unchangeable, a growth mindset views skills as malleable and improvable through effort and dedication.


So, the next time you feel the urge to enhance your skills, such as becoming a better communicator,  get yourself a coach or instructor to supervise you in a deliberate practice session. When you embrace deliberate practice you embark on a journey of continuous improvement, unlocking your full potential and set the stage for long term growth and success.







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