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Deliberate Practice for Practical Life and Pursuit of Your Passion

Deliberate Practice for Practical Life and Pursuit of Your Passion

Have you ever heard of deliberate practice? What about the “10,000 hours” rule for mastery? Well, I was minding my own business and listening to the EmCrit podcast from Scott Weingart when this very interesting topic arose. He had a very riveting discussion about deliberate practice and expertise that got me thinking about how  this cognitive exercise affects not only my practice of Emergency Medicine but also my passions and activities of daily living. 

So in a stroke of inspiration this morning after my workout, I recorded this live broadcast with my own musings on this topic.

So what is deliberate practice? One definition is: repetitive performance of intended cognitive or psychomotor skills. 

My take on this is that it definitely takes a lot of cognitive effort to do this type of learning.

It requires forethought prior to the action, mental plasticity during the action, constructive analysis and thoughtful feedback after completion of the action. This process is not a comfortable one and we often shy away from things that are difficult and that challenge the boundaries of our comfort zones.

Here are 5 keys to deliberate practice for practical life:

  1. Deliberate practice is highly demanding mentally, requiring high levels of focus and concentration. So you feel like you are using mental energy during it. Do you feel challenged? Do you feel uncomfortable? Great! Then you are doing it correctly. Like a lot of things, when we are challenged and pushed the most is when the most dramatic metamorphosis occurs. It is not just the fact that you are challenged mentally during the activity but also that you are fully absorbed in your practice in order for it to be effective.
  2. It must be repeated and must continue for long of periods of time. This is where the practice part comes into play. Stretching yourself mentally while you do the activity repeatedly for a long period of time is key. It may or may not be 10,000 hours but will be a large number of hours in order for this repetitive process to translate into mastery.
  3. It requires continuous feedback on results. When we are fully absorbed, mentally stretching and getting feedback that is crucial to progress with deliberate practice. This feedback can be from a coach or observer, film footage or time lapse photography. The bottom line is that there needs to be an external modality for analysis of your performance of the activity such that constructive feedback is possible.
  4. Pre-performance preparation is essential. So if you are working on your tennis serve, you may observe experts in that skill, read about the mechanics of serving or watch a step by step tutorial on serving. Being prepared before the activity is key because this allows for goal setting keeping in mind not just outcomes but also the processes involved in reaching those goals.
  5. It involves careful reflection on performance after practice sessions are completed. So during the activity, you focus on self reflection and correction in real time. After the activity is completed, it is time for more self reflection, absorption of the feedback from observers, and analysis of performance. What can be done differently next time? Where do you stand in respect to your overall goals? Development of this kind of cognitive exercise is crucial to the creation of a robust learning habit.

So, Malcolm Gladwell talks about 10,000 hours in his book Outliers.

There seems to be a misconception that by doing something for 10,000 hours one will become a master. That is not entirely true. Practicing for 10,000 hours does not guarantee success. Malcolm Gladwell in an Ask Me Anything on Reddit from 2014 had this to say about his popularly perceived concept:

“There is a lot of confusion about the 10,000 rule that I talk about in Outliers. It doesn’t apply to sports. And practice isn’t a SUFFICIENT condition for success. I could play chess for 100 years and I’ll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest. Unfortunately, sometimes complex ideas get oversimplified in translation.”

Dr Anders Ericsson has done a lot of work in this area and speaks to the role of deliberate practice in achieving mastery.

Are you thinking about how you will incorporate deliberate practice into your life? I hope so. This is a concept that you can apply today to the thing that you are so passionate about. This week for karate class, our cherubs reviewed this very topic as it applies to their martial arts practice. The instructor gave examples of cognitive stretch that combats automaticity or cognitively passive practice. One example was to do the warm up exercises while naming ten superheroes or ten foods or ten items that begin with a certain letter in the alphabet. The idea is to practice challenging the brain while doing the activity for development of cognitive plasticity and growth. So awesome that our cherubs are doing deliberate practice this way.

Be strong. Be brave. Unleash your greatness!

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Charmaine Gregory

I am a nocturnist Emergency Physician, wife, mom to three vivacious cherubs as well as a greatness and virtual fitness coach. I help busy women like myself reclaim their fitness and wellness mojo and unleash their greatness! Watch my story and get a complimentary health assessment here: My Story If you are like me and have picky eaters in your fold, join my Facebook group, Picky Eaters Strong Mom here: Picky Eater Strong Mom Facebook Group

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