“We are what we practise most” Lisa
Whether it be good, bad, indifferent, useful, destructive, positive, negative. Whatever label we put on it, we are what we practise most.
Think about it for a moment. If I practise the guitar, I become a guitarist; if I practise running, I become an athlete; and if I practise writing, I become an author. And, with the non-tangible; if I practise impatience, I grow my impatience muscle; conversely if I practise gratitude, I become more grateful; if I practise love and compassion, I become more loving and compassionate.
Often, we think about practising a skill, a sport, or a job to become an expert in our work or in our hobbies. Rarely do we extend this practise to our individual way of being. We excuse ourselves and others with, ‘being just the way we are’. I would challenge this and say something more like, ‘it’s the way we have chosen to be’.
How much practise does it take to become an expert? Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talks about a ‘90’s study confirming that to become an expert one needs to practise for 10000 hours (90 minutes per day for 20 years!). That’s a LOT of practise! This theory has received some flack as practice alone, even at 10000 hours, doesn’t necessarily make you an expert, and for others far fewer hours can elevate them to expert status. There is clearly more to it than practise alone!
Tim Ferris took over this train of expert thought in his book The Four Hour Chef, where he looks at more than simply practise as the key to becoming an expert. Tim discusses meta-learning, building blocks, ABC’s, self-sufficiency and deliberate practise as keys to the locks of success.
How much of who we are and what we are good at come down to talent, intrinsic capability, something we are born with; and how much is down to making a choice to become an expert through practise? It makes sense that we tend to be better at the thing we enjoy doing, things that resonate with our inner being. Are we better at them because we pay more attention, have more interest, spend more time in deliberate practise? Are we better at them because we are in our ‘element’? (Ken Robinson – Element)
Going back to ‘who’ we are, our personality, our way of seeing and interacting with our environment and the people in it. How much of what would be labelled as ‘our personality’ is intrinsically created, locked by our genetic code, and how much do we architect by choice and hone with practise?
Let’s look at the popular topic of gratitude journaling as an example of practising a skill, by choice, forming a habit in doing so, and changing how you feel, permanently. Many studies over the past decade have found the people who consciously focus on what they are grateful for tend to be happier. What’s more, it was found that these benefits sustained for weeks following the study period. Forbes published an article on the seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, and these include:
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
- Gratitude improves physical health
- Gratitude improves psychological health
- Gratitude improves empathy and reduces aggression
- Grateful people sleep better
- Gratitude improves self-esteem
- Gratitude increases mental strength
Looking at this list I would say this mindful gratitude practise certainly changes ‘our way of seeing and interacting with our environment and the people in it’, therefore changing who we are to a better version of ourselves.
So, if I practise listening, rather than talking; If I practise honing my interaction, my conversations with others, relationships start to change.
If I choose to ask questions, good, deep, passionate, authentic questions, for the simple goal of seeking to understand another’s point of view, their way of being, without adding my perspective or trying to solve anything; relationships become less protected, less defensive; more open and more authentic – and everyone benefits.
My friend, collaborator and Uncomfortable is OK founder, Chris Desmond talks about the crux of all things being self-awareness. Self-awareness brings our actions, our learning, our practise back from the depths of our history and habit and places them on a pedestal to be examined and critiqued in a place where choice can be made.
Does this practise serve me?
How do I want to be?
Where should I focus my attention, and my practise?
As a Judoka, I understand the discipline of hours of focussed practise required to competently perform a throw, hold, strangle or lock, let alone a 300 movement judo kata art form (more on my judo career in another writing ?). The practise was intentful, focussed and almost meditative, where the hours slipped by like minutes.
Practise in the beginning is messy, it’s hard, its frustrating and it hurts. The desire to give up is there, the power of tenacity is stronger. Allow the mess, have no opinion, just start, trust, don’t give up.
What are you going to practise today?
Check out the skills of Danny MacAskill, cyclist extraordinairre and master of practise.