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Understanding the psychological rewards of bad habits
Creating new habits to replace old ones
The term "deliberate practice" is mostly attributed to Karl Anders Ericsson, an influential figure in the field of performance psychology. Deliberate practice turns amateurs into professionals. It creates top performers in any field.
Doing something regularly but mindlessly is not the same as practicing it. Deliberate practice means repeatedly performing a set of activities with the intention of improving the specific skill.
While engaging in deliberate practise, we are always looking for errors or areas of weakness. Once we identify it, we establish a plan for improving it. If one approach does not work, we keep trying new ones until it does.
In using deliberate practice, we can overcome many limitations we might see as fixed. We can go further than we ever thought possible.
Deliberate practice is a universal technique employed in any area you're trying to be the best at or get a little bit better at.
For example, competitive fields with clear measurements such as music, dance football, horse riding, swimming, or chess. But we can also improve performance in fields such as teaching, nursing, surgery, therapy, programming, trading, writing, decision-making, leadership, studying, and communication.
Our nature is to choose the easiest thing. When we practice something a lot, we develop habits that make the task almost effortless. While it may be helpful, it can interfere with our improvement.
Deliberate practice means finding the weak areas that impact your overall performance and then target those.
Most often, deliberate practice is repeated frustration and failure. Similar to a baby learning to walk, we will often fall for every step we take. That is the point. Since deliberate practice targets our weakest areas, it means doing the stuff we're not good at. We will get frustrated.
Set a short, ambitious goal once a month, not impossible, then challenge yourself to it.
Deliberate practice is very challenging and impossible to do all day long. At the high end, top practitioners rarely spend more than three to five hours per day on deliberate practice. More hours often result in diminishing returns. One hour per day is enough for substantial improvements, especially when it's consistently done over a long period.
Enough rest and recovery are vital. During deliberate practice, we need to switch to relaxing activities to feel refreshed.
Practicing something without knowing if you are getting better is pointless.
Deliberate practice is most effective when used with a coach some of the time to give feedback, point out problems, suggest techniques for improvement, and provide vital motivation.
A coach can see your performance from a different perspective. If you don't have access to a coach, built the skill of metacognition (knowledge about your own knowledge), where it becomes possible to coach yourself systematically.
"…A critical part of self-evaluation is deciding what caused those errors. Average performers believe their errors were caused by factors outside their control: my opponent got lucky; the task was too hard; I just don’t have the natural ability for this. Top performers, by contrast, believe they are responsible for their errors."
Persisting with deliberate practice needs a lot of motivation. However, the motivation needs to come from within, not from external rewards or to avoid a negative consequence. We need to enjoy getting better for its own sake.
The deeper we focus during deliberate practice sessions, the more we get out of them.
The spacing effect refers to how we can better remember information if we learn them in multiple sessions with increasingly longer intervals between them. It is nearly impossible to practice something once and expect it to stick.
Every time you're learning a new part of a skill, make a schedule for when you'll review it. Typically, it involves going over information after an hour, then a day, then every other day, then weekly, then fortnightly, then monthly, then every six months, then yearly.
Deliberate practice is more complex and nuanced than we like to believe.
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