By Chris Klonoski

Practice makes perfect. 

It’s practically a childhood mantra. Want to learn to shoot a basketball? Play the piano? Practice makes perfect. 

It’s good advice. Practice is the name of the game when learning a skill or a new way of approaching something, but it’s the perfect I get caught up in, where I stall.

Practicing…Without Strain, Striving or Stress

Perfect is a mighty high bar. And it stops more actions – more beginnings and more middles –  than any other mindset. Striving for perfect is a losing game. It removes passion, motivation and joy. It also removes success. 

Instead, I think of practice as habits or routines, with an element of something new. It can be a new task or trait, or a new approach. Or maybe the “new” you introduce is to a metric or other goal. 

It’s the “new” that is uncomfortable – and the place to find the fun. 

When I was younger, learning something meant buckling down, concentrating and “really-focus-this-time-Chris.” It was challenging – and not in a positive or productive way. I did eventually learn or become competent or even excel at a couple things – but it was always a grind. 

We know that children learn essential life skills through play  – creativity, spatial coordination, language, motor development, problem-solving, etc… the list goes on. Though the specific skills change, adults also benefit from embracing play and lightness during learning or implementing a new routine, as opposed to drill and kill. 

Learning a skill or developing a new habit/practice with enthusiasm, lightheartedness, and an open mindset still involves attention, planning, and repetition – but it also inspires curiosity, confidence, resilience…traits we want to encourage and support in ourselves and our teammates or colleagues. 

Practice cannot be separated from motivation. 1. Why are you developing a new skill or habit? 2. What do you gain from this and why does it matter? 

While answering these questions, drive your answers to a higher plane. 

In practice, the answers may sound something like this: I am developing a disciplined social media calendar for three months, even though I would rather be spontaneous. I am doing this because my boss told me to. I am doing this because it will give me breathing room to be more creative. I am doing this because I will enjoy knowing our content is having a positive impact. I am doing this because it will free up time in my calendar where I can pursue that project I am really juiced about. I am doing this because it will push my organized button, and I enjoy that feeling. 

Once you have the two questions answered to your personal satisfaction, and you understand your why, you will have developed your Northstar. 

Next comes the implementing – the actual practicing. Make your plans, and build in affirmations. Simple things you can say within your brain that provide the reset – the mindset that will help you do the thing. It should express confidence in your ability to succeed. And it should be simple. “I’ve got this”  is simple and to the point. I often use, “it’s not a big deal’ because I have to circumvent my brain’s first response of making new things (or old boring things) into major hurdles. You know you – what will work for your headspace? 

Next, design activities that will maximize opportunities for you to succeed. What does that look like for you? Break tasks into chunks, set up short and long-term goals, buy a new notebook, create a playlist for the new activity, or print pictures of how you visualize success or motivation around this new thing. Is your motivation visual, audible, tactile? Or a combination of these things? Figure it out and put it to work for you. And if it stops working – no big deal – try something else. 

Finally, celebrate your success. All of it – the small and the large. We carry our childhoods with us and it is a waste of time to deny that a pat on the head, a recognition of our efforts, still feels good. During Root + River Root Sessions, we reward clients for breakthroughs, insights, jobs well done…lots of things. And people glow. Why? Because it feels good to be seen, to have been heard, and to be told we matter, that what we contribute has value and is appreciated. Genuine celebrations are healthy, positive, encouraging, and keep us feeling alive and connected to other humans. They can be small. They can be private. But they need to occur far more than they do. 

Whatever the skill, habit, behavior or hobby you wish to pursue…practice makes imperfectly perfect is the goal. Your Northstar is the reason why. It is the willingness to practice that will matter the most. Everything else is workable, changeable, negotiable, figure out-able. And ultimately, learnable. 

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