[By: Martin Grunburg]
Once we know what practice really is (see Part I), we understand how in many ways life itself can be regarded as one long, extended practice session.
Then we recognize that we’re actually practicing all the time — perhaps just not too well.
As an example, writing this blog post is a form of practice. My surf session earlier today was practicing, as was my meditation this morning.
Riding a bike is practice. So is kindness, breathing, religion, what you eat, what you watch on TV and with whom you associate.
Sowing the Seeds with Practice
Some people realize this more quickly than others, while some never realize it at all!
I’m not saying what takes place on a daily basis is necessarily always good practice, but make no mistake, it is practice.
Every moment we are sowing seeds with our energy.
Therefore, the question shifts from what is practice, to what is practicing comprised of?
What are its guts — its component parts? What makes some sessions worthwhile and high quality and other practice garbage?
In other words, IF there were a formula for PRACTICE, to improve its quality, what would it be?
To achieve high-quality practice you need _____?____ and ____?_____ Or, ____?______ and _______?______ and _______?____?
Typically the fewer elements, the better the formula! ; )
At first blush, the challenge with any such formula is realizing that the concept exists in both the mental and physical spheres. For instance, one can certainly practice their thinking (or should)!
So, for instance, to suggest that the formula is “Intention + ACTION,” unfortunately, doesn’t fit too well, since action doesn’t really exist in the realm of thought.
Thus, any formula for practice ought to take into account both the MENTAL and PHYSICAL realms. We can practice and refine the quality of our thinking, and we can practice and refine the quality of our actions.
So, we end up with this working formula:
INTENTION + EFFORT = PRACTICE
The quality of your intention PLUS the quality of your effort equates to the quality of your practice.
Since “effort” includes mental and/or physical exertion — and, better still, tends to imply continued or repeated effort — this formula becomes a process.
For instance, on a scale of 1-5 (for the component parts), if my INTENTION to learn piano is a 2 and my EFFORT is a 1.5, according to this formula, the result — the output quality of my practice — would only be a 3.5 (very low). [Keep in mind since it’s intention PLUS effort the practice quality scale must go up to 10.]
So, if this formula (for purposes of discussion) were true, then the next question would be, what is the best process to refine one’s practice?
Enter P.A.R.R. (again): Plan, Act, Record and Reassess
As it turns out, the processes to produce quality practice — to elevate one’s practice — and to develop positive habits are the same!
PARR is what The Habit Factor has taught all along to create and improve one’s HabitStrength.
Plan = INTENTION; Act (in this case effort); Record = reaffirming the intention; Reassess allows one to assess both the results and make any adjustments necessary for better practice and results next time.
Ben Knew How to Practice
Now, with “ALL LIFE IS PRACTICE” as the backdrop in mind, let’s revisit our buddy Benjamin Franklin and his 13 Virtues (above).
Here is what Ben wrote in his autobiography:
“I hope, therefore, that my descendants (YOU!) will follow this example and reap the benefits.”
What is he talking about?
Specifically, he was referring to his process of practice. The process he used to develop and refine his CHARACTER. His practice, as he referred to it, to improve his character — to refine the habits that would formulate his virtues.
He didn’t call it PARR, but that is precisely what he did!
Ben Planned, Acted, Recorded and then Reassessed.
He kept a journal and each week he would isolate JUST ONE habit (a to-be virtue) and track it! So, for instance, it might be Order or Humility. Week after week he’d rotate through the list and concentrate upon a new virtue. Then each day he would take the time to notate and comment in his journal if he had an infraction (something he thought went against his INTENTION).
That’s right: Ben practiced and refined his actions and/or thoughts (with effort) to develop the habits that would yield the desired VIRTUES.
What were his results?
I’ll let him tell you. These are his words from his autobiography,
“On the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the Perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell short of it,” Ben wrote. “Yet as I was, by the Endeavor, a better and a happier Man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.” Then he goes on (again for emphasis!): “I hope, therefore, that my descendants will follow this example and reap the benefits.”
Time to start practicing! ; )