You may have heard that 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" are needed to become world-class in any field.
Scientists and psychologists may disagree on whether or not deliberate practice is what gives you the edge, but I understand that if you practice something long enough and hard enough (thanks to neuroplasticity) and with as much dedication as you can you create a new neural pathway that one could call a ‘habit’ or a ‘automated’ ability.
What you practice you become good at
When I was learning to ride a bike … again … aged 40; I couldn’t figure out the brakes, the corners often found me horizontal and not in the Danny MacAskill nailing the berm kind of way. On the ground usually entangled in my bike. I was clumsy and felt like I had feet with their own agenda and arms desperate to throw my into the nearest tree… which turned out to be a reality on numerous occasions. However, I stuck at it, sucky and all, till I learned with lessons and guidance and many many hours in the saddle and a few out, how to really ride a bike.
My point is; now I don’t even have to think about it all that much. I ride a lot in ‘automatic’ as my 10 000 hours has given me neural pathways I never had and thank goodness for them - riding is now way easier and now I can find my ‘flow’ and find joy in it without having a nervous breakdown over a stone or pinecone!
So that brings me back to the 10 000 hours of deliberate practice. How could this not be an awesome thing. It seems so simple. Do, practice well and BAM 10 000 hours later you are up there with the Beatles and Bill Gates.
Here’s the kicker - we all practice every day without even knowing it. We practice things that are not world-class and it keeps us ‘small’ and locked into our life as we know it. We battle to grow because of it and we don’t often know we are masters of a particular field. The fields of; worry, anxiety, complaining, anger, apathy, criticism, fear, negativity, lack, unworthiness, self-degradation, selfishness, people pleasing, procrastination.
We have been practicing these things for as long as we can remember, well beyond the 10 000 hours limit. What we practice becomes our body and brain’s ‘go to’ our ‘automated response’. We get really really good, world-class good at it. We get angry for the smallest 'slights', we get anxious over a traffic light taking to long to turn green for us, we complain when we have to restock the cupboard, we complain that our leg hair grows back too fast, we feel desensitised to the homeless man begging for money, we fear wearing that new red dress we bought ages ago sitting at the back of our cupboard, we find fault with the way our partner packs the dishwasher, we lack those extra 5 cm to be the perfect height, we keep our chocolate hidden in our locker, desk, bag incase we are asked to share it, we say yes when we actually don't have the time or money, or energy and then blame the other person. Sound familiar? We get so good at it that we don’t even have to think about it - like riding my bike - we sail along and wonder why our lives sometimes don’t look like we imagined growing up.
Do your reps. Flex, repeat x 10 000 hours.
What if we turned this on it’s head and practiced, deliberately, the real world-class things like gratitude. Flex that thankfulness muscle. Use it daily in hundreds of different, new and interesting ways. Find something you ‘complain’ (in your head complaining is still complaining!) about regularly and then get that gratitude muscle out and see if you can lift that ‘weight’ - see if you can look at it with new eyes and find the gratitude in the thing, situation, person or place. Waiting in line … at home affairs, the post office, the end of the day groceries … be deliberate and get creative.
Find something to be thankful for. And no eye rolling and snarkiness, that doesn’t count and keeps you (no matter how funny you think you are) in the anger, the fear, the complaining, the lack and the anxiety.
Traffic light taking to long - time to do some deep breathing meditation or visualise your day
Restock the cupboard - that you have one to restock means you are doing okay
Leg hair - Our amazing bodies can and will do what they are originally designed to do
Desensitised to the homeless man - give him a smile and send good vibes - it costs nothing
Wearing that red dress - give it away or WEAR it, even if it is to pack the newly stocked cupboard!
Our partner packs the dishwasher - Wow you have a dishwasher! Yay, what a blessing having help
Those extra 5 cm to be the perfect height - You are perfect as you are now ROCK IT like you mean it
Chocolate hidden in our locker, desk or bag - share it, spread the love the calories and the feel good
Saying yes when we don't want to or can't in reality - STOP. Read a book on boundaries
FLEX and repeat. Flex and repeat. Get active and creative. Purposefully look for the other side of the coin. It is double sided it is simply our limited ‘stimulus response’ reaction to go to our ‘automated’ world-class suckiness field of expertise. We are mostly not even aware of all the practice we are doing daily.
Deliberately practice for an epic YOU
When we practice yoga or judo or pumping iron or riding a bike or anything, we focus our attention, we bring our thoughts to the muscle, posture, movement, act and we ‘watch’ it, deliberately concentrating on it. When we do this repeatedly we make those new pathways in our brains; our bodies and our mental muscles get stronger and we are able to lift that ‘weight’, ‘ride the tide’ and are more ‘flexible’ in life.
Just 4 today: Practice something positive for 5 mins ever hour - keep a score card if you want
For more reading on neural pathways and understanding habits and how to break them here are some resources: How To Rewire Your Brain For Happiness - Vanessa Loder; Good News: You Are Not Your Brain - Deepak Chopra
Neural Pathways: The Biology of Change - Victoria Lorient-Faibish