Practice Makes Progress

perfectionism self-care Jan 26, 2022

It's easy not to start something when we feel that the outcome has to be perfect. It prevents us from starting. It deflates our self-esteem.

If we change our mindset to focus on progress and not perfection as the outcome, it changes our willingness to practice. Our willingness to begin. And my friends, beginning is more than half the battle.

The magic of just beginning is based on a principle called behavioral activation. The idea is that even if you aren’t feeling like doing something, you start it in a small way, knowing that once you start the behavior, you will feel activated to continue. And after you complete the task/activity, you’ll likely feel better in body, mind, and spirit and that good feeling will reinforce your desire to do it again next time.

So, beginning is the first step, and continued practice is the second step. Practice without the goal of achieving perfection. Practice without attachment to obtaining a certain outcome. Practice to become a little better, to learn a little bit more each time.

Practice is taking little steps.
Practice is showing up consistently.
Practice is doing something with the expectation that we won't get it right the first time, or the second time, or the third time..that we will "fail."

And that is okay. In fact, that is necessary and normal. We wouldn’t expect a baby to know how to walk the first time they attempted? That was a rhetorical question, but to answer it for you…No, we wouldn’t expect a baby to walk. In fact, we expect them to fall down over and over and over again. But eventually, after repeated practice, they do learn to walk.

Now, let’s apply that logic to trying a new skill in life. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to hit it out of the park on our first attempt at a new skill…whether that is writing a book, parenting a child, learning a new profession, cooking a new dish, etc. Rather, we should expect ourselves to not want to sit down to write the book, to get upset in the heat of the moment when parenting our child, to not know the skills in our new profession, to have lumpy rolls or a salty stir-fry the first time we try. And why? Because we are practicing a new skill.

In fact, if we zoom out even further, we can see that life is a giant series of practice sessions. We practice relationships…and maybe we don’t figure it out the first, second, or third time around. We practice career skills…and maybe we need to change our specialty or change careers altogether. We practice finding what brings us joy in life…and maybe it takes us identifying many things that don’t bring us joy before we hone in on the things that uplift us. The key is that we will never progress in our life goals if we don’t start and then practice.

The people who practice (and "fail") are ultimately the people who succeed. Consider that next time your inner critic chimes in to tell you that you aren’t doing a good job and should give up. Make “practice makes progress” your mantra for a week and see what happens!

What skill do you want to practice? Is it exercise, yoga, piano, guitar, a new language, communicating, writing, cooking? What is one little step that you can take today?