What Are You Practicing?

 

“We talkin’ ’bout practice.” — Allen Iverson

I’ve been apartment hunting the past few days, seen a few different places and met several landlords. I used to always hate the part where I had to ask about the rent. I wasn’t comfortable talking money and was afraid to negotiate.

This week though I’ve found myself feeling at ease with the rent speak. I believe the reason why is simple: I’ve been through this dozens of times now, with many different people in several different countries. It’s not new and uncomfortable anymore. I’ve had lots of practice.

I could say the same about flirting, traveling and being self-employed. All things that once scared the bejesus out of me, but not so much anymore.

To state the obvious: Whatever we spend time practicing, we inevitably get better at, we inevitably get comfortable with.

But this can be dangerous. Because many of us spend time practicing things we’d rather not get better at or comfortable with. A few examples:

  • Working an unfulfilling job
  • Being a push over
  • Running away from challenges
  • Procrastinating
  • Being in an unfulfilling relationship
  • Watching television
  • Complaining
  • Passing the buck
  • Keeping your opinion to yourself
  • Being shy

The more time we spend doing such things, the better we get at them, the more they feel like the norm, and the harder it is to break out and make a change.

Take the unfulfilling job as an example. By staying there long-term, you’re effectively giving yourself lots of time to practice complacency. You get used to the steady paycheck, the office gossip, the daily commute, the endless meetings where no real decisions are made… before you know it you’ve gotten really good at sleepwalking through 2,000 waking hours of your life each year.

Take procrastination as another example. When you keep putting off things you know you should do, that becomes a habit, your default way of handling things. Practice makes perfect.

You get where I’m going with this: Consider the things you’re practicing, the things you’re regularly devoting time and energy to, and make sure those are the things you want to become good at.

If not, stop practicing and go do something else.

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16 Comments

  1. Hey Niall,
    Thanks for this post! Right before I read it I was getting a little anxious about where I’m at in my life right now. I’ve just quit a job I didn’t enjoy and will soon be traveling to Costa Rica to complete my yoga teacher training. A huge goal of mine when I get back is to move into my own place. I plan on going back to a job I had before that I really enjoyed, but wasn’t really making enough money at. I started worrying just now about how I’m going to make ends meet. I also had to have a difficult conversation with a friend recently about deciding living together not being the best idea, so now I’m faced with finding a new roommate. Basically every area of my life right now is a huge question mark, but your post reminded me that I am practicing making decisions based on what is best for me, and the type of life I want to live, instead of accepting mediocrity.

    Thanks for the positive reminder!

  2. Yes! This is absolutely true. People can really get in trouble by practicing things they don’t want to become good at and not practicing things they do want to become good at. I’ve learned that the hard way more than once. Great post!

  3. If I can’t practice, I can’t practice. It is as simple as that. It ain’t about that at all. It’s easy to sum it up if you’re just talking about practice. We’re sitting here, and I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re talking about practice. I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game last it’s my last but we’re talking about practice man. How silly is that?

    Now I know that I’m supposed to lead by example and all that but I’m not shoving that aside like it don’t mean anything. I know it’s important, I honestly do but we’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice man. We’re talking about practice. We’re talking about practice. We’re not talking about the game. We’re talking about practice. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you’ve seen me play right, you’ve seen me give everything I’ve got, but we’re talking about practice right now.

  4. First time I’ve felt the urge to comment.
    Best post I’ve read from you.

    Such a good point – i’m constantly reading about the power of practise, Malcolm Gladwell, Carol Dweck, Daniel Coyle, Matthew Syed, the Dalai Lama!

    But just focussing on that makes it a choise between practise and non-practise.

    When you consider the fact that the way you spend your day can be positive or NEGATIVE practise it makes the choice of how you spend your time so much more critical.

    Thanks for this.

  5. So true man!

    Confidence, competence, comfort challenges, and courage need to be used in areas of self improvement, or else, like you said, we are practicing complacency.

    What a shitty thing to practice.

  6. An excellent point well made Niall. I’m practising many different things at the moment after starting some NLP coaching. I’m finding it really interesting because in order to practise doing something well you have to recognise that you’re not doing it properly! Becoming aware of the patterns of behaviour that lead to procrastination helps to address where you want to change. Your idea of rewriting scenarios as you want them to happen is so right, identifying how things didn’t go as you would’ve liked, seeing your ideals in the positive…
    Sir Robert Winston did an excellent series of documentaries on the power of the mind and how it works with learning new things. He explained how the synapses in your mind create the patterns necessary to carry out an act just by imaging yourself doing them (I think it’s The Human Body 1998 in case anyone’s interested).

  7. Well as mentioned in a previous post my goal was to sleep with two times as many girls as normal. I am on pace to achieve this girl – I’ve had the intercourse with 3 unique girls to date (since that post) and I’m back in a groove – 3/3 in converting first dates into sex (two girls took 2 dates, one girl had sweaty animal sex with me the first time out).