Practice Makes Perfect? Not so fast.

photo-nick-karvounis

Practice something imperfectly, and you’ll be worse off.

We’ve been told since we were very young that if you want to be good at something, you’d better practice. What we often miss is the fact that if you practice something poorly, you will NEVER improve. In fact, I guarantee that you’ll be worse off than if you had never practiced at all.

I’m not sure that everyone understands that concept.  I do, however, always find it fascinating how many people think that repetition is all that is necessary to have a skill.

I can absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever, tell you that if your goal is to learn a skill and to be able to do it really well if you just practice it a lot without paying attention to how you’re practicing (i.e., practicing carefully and correctly) you will not improve – you will simply be continuing to do it as poorly as when you started – just maybe faster.  This holds true to everything from learning a language (where not only vocabulary and grammar are important but also a proper accent) to your workout at the gym, to learning how to poach an egg.  It pertains to every skill you want to learn.

Think about learning how to ride a bike.  Most of us learned at a young age after spending some time on a tricycle and then a two-wheeler with training wheels attached.  Yes, it’s practice – a whole lot of practice.  But, what you don’t think about is that you are also learning how to balance properly on two wheels that are turning, how to pedal at the same time you are in motion in order to keep those wheels turning which will allow you to stay upright or that you are learning how to pay attention to the surface you are riding on in order to avoid obstacles and holes.  It’s necessary to learn ALL of these separate skills well in order to accomplish your original goal of learning to ride a bike properly.

Practice only makes perfect what you practice perfectly.

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