There are words which are just not sexy like budget, commitment, saddle shoe, and practice. While some people may have positive associations with practice as in "I had a blast at soccer practice," others of us slump in our chairs at memories of say, piano practice. Da da da DUM!
It's a shame, too, because in our experience people would benefit from more practice in their lives. It's a common misperception that to make changes we need more information, when what we really need is to apply what we already know.
So let's see if we can ease those groaning associations and breathe in some fresh energy and excitement to this valuable activity.
When we say practice we include all of these definitions:
Practice as way to develop an awareness, behavior, or skills.
ex: Since I've been taking weekly dance lessons my cha-cha-cha is out of this world.
Practice as an act you are committed to doing regularly.
ex: Yes, Ms. Dental Hygienist, I am flossing every single day!
Practice as an application of ideas into action or reality.
ex: To simplify my life I gave away my collection of Fortune Cookie fortunes.
Each of these meanings holds a treasure trove of life-enhancing possibilities. First and foremost, practicing something is a relatively easy, accessible, and affordable way to grow as a human being. It's pretty amazing when you realize that if you simply do something enough times you will get better at it.
In addition, by practicing the things we care about and that are important to our well-being, we have a better than average chance of actually living the life we want. For instance, if we commit to seeing our friends regularly, we improve our chances of rewarding friendships more than if we didn't.
A more profound though less tangible consequence of practice is the expanded sense of integrity and wholeness we experience when we align what we believe with what we do. Walking our talk in this way connects us to our highest self and to the world in the same moment. Try it and see. Take a belief you have like "It's good to stop and smell the roses" and actually do it—smell the roses, or whatever your version of rose smelling is—and notice how you feel.
Once you've decided to give a certain practice a go, you'll want to tailor it to fit your needs. Here are some guidelines to help you create a more successful practice:
Practice, practice, practice. Not only is it the way to get to Carnegie Hall, it's an essential means for creating the life you want.
What are some practices in your life that have helped you? Pick one successful practice and write down the factors that contributed to it being a success. This will give you clues of how to create a practice tailored to your personality, needs, and strengths.
Pick a practice you would like to introduce into your life. Review the guidelines above as well as your own list of success factors. What's an easy way to begin? How will you know if you are making progress? What are the obstacles and how will you deal with them? What will keep you motivated and lead you to experience this as a positive adventure?
Beth and Eric
[Originally published March 1, 2014 and re-published on July 1, 2017.]
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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