When we look at the best performers in our field, it’s easy to succumb to the feeling that they are ‘special’, ‘talented’, ‘gifted’ or ‘natural’. When we hear terms like ‘overnight success’ and ‘gone viral’, it’s easy to think that some people are just lucky and were at the right place at the right time doing the right things. What we don’t hear about is how much time, effort and the many failures it took to move that successful person to break through the glass ceiling and win the day.
To be truly great at anything you need deliberate practise. It’s definitely not sexy or exciting, that’s why we never hear about it — deliberate practise doesn’t help to sell products or grab our attention, but it does liberate us. There are no hacks, no shortcuts and fast-tracking that truly help us reach mastery and expertise. Real progress comes from consistent and effective practise. But, the trick is to know what effective practise looks like and be intentional about doing it.
What is deliberate practise?
Deliberate practise is the focused and consistent effort toward a specific goal. We have to define our goals, focus on relevant tasks and use our creativity to overcome any obstacles in our way. And, the engine that makes this all work is repetition: coming back to do it over and over again. Deliberate practise puts an end to our mindless actions and embeds real knowledge deep into our brain; aiming our focus at something small and specific.
Deliberate practise is:
Doing the work
Finding creative ways around the obstacles
Focusing exclusively on the task at hand
Consistent repetition and practise
Focus is key. It’s much better to practise for shorter sessions with an intense focus than for hours while your mind is scattered.
The importance of motivation
“This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practise: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.” — Anders Ericsson
Deliberate practise takes resilience and hard work. So, we inevitably run into the issue of motivation. We need motivation and inspiration because the necessary hard work can seem daunting and endless. Motivation greases of the engine that is deliberate practise, and if you know anything about cars, you know that if you don’t have any oil in your engine to keep things moving well, the engine will seize up. This is similar to not having enough of the right motivation, which commonly leads people to give up after years of diligent and disciplined practise.
3 ways to stay motivated through deliberate practise
1. Look up the top performers in your field
Get familiar with what expertise and mastery look like. Got to seminars, tournaments and watch these performers on YouTube. Admire them and look closely at what they're doing, along with what they're saying. Usually, when a person reaches a high level of mastery, they get joy and fulfillment by helping others to also reach higher levels. They’ll typically have blogs, YouTube channels or podcasts — get across as many of these channels as you can and just be a sponge.
2. Get an expert coach or mentor
The value of coaching is in the expert and objective perspective you get. Coaches will give you feedback on what you are currently doing and help you to develop a bespoke plan to overcome your flaws and build on your strengths. All top performers have coaches and mentors, so if you want to reach their level, you should have one, too.
3. Organise a ‘brain trust’
Get together with like-minded people who are also striving for similar goals. This will push and motivate you to stay disciplined and be on top of your important work.
“you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”, as famously said by Jim Rohn.
We don’t succeed in isolation, we do it with the help of others, so why not strive to put yourself around the people who want the same things that you do. Check out www.meetup.com to see if there’s already a group that you can join.
These 3 things have one very important thing in common, they rely on social proof. Our human nature is built around the group because we are social animals who incorporate the views and actions of other people.
So, it’s important to put yourself around people who are striving for the same things as you. Their energy and expertise will rub off on you and help to move you to the next level.
Discipline is your fuel
If motivation is the grease, then discipline is the fuel to our engine of deliberate practise. Discipline is the most reliable way to keep us working toward our goals — discipline is a contract that we make with ourselves, regardless of how we may feel.
It’s actually common sense when you think about it. Without discipline, we just waft through different priorities and never really delve deep into expertise. If you’re disciplined in a particular area, then you’re on the path to mastery in that field. That’s the point of deliberate practise, not to be better than the next person, but to be better than you were yesterday and achieve your fullest potential.