(Video link here.) This cool little video WOKE US UP recently about something we do daily. Practice. We practice tai chi, among other things, but realize now, we didn’t really “get” the best way to do it, or the essential piece that we are missing: the goal of improvement (rather than the goal of just doing it).
Mastery isn’t simply about the amount of hours of practice. It’s also the quality and effectiveness of that practice. Effective practice is consistent, intensely focused, and targets content or weaknesses that lie at the edge of one’s current abilities.
How to Practice Effectively helped us understand just what practice does to our brains to make us better at things. But most importantly, it answers the essential question:
How to get the most out of practice time?
—Focus on the task at hand. Minimize potential distractions by turning off the computer or TV and putting your cellphone on Airplane Mode.
—Start out slowly or in slow-motion. Coordination is built with repetitions whether correct or incorrect. If you gradually increase the speed [or amount] of the quality repetitions, you have a better chance of doing them correctly.
—Frequent repetitions with allotted breaks are common practice habits of elite performers….Many divide their time used for effective practice into multiple daily practice session of limited duration.
—Practice in your brain in vivid detail…once a physical motion has been established, it can be reinforced just by imagining it.
You can apply these techniques to just about any practice, not just physical ones.
We’re practicing tai chi differently now, with greater awareness of improving rather than just showing up to keep the status quo. That’s not to say our monkey-mind doesn’t continue to run away with us; our practice is to call it back, to focus —not say FUCK THIS—, as Mira Keras, wrote about so wonderfully.
We can’t help think of Allen Ginberg practicing tai chi in his kitchen...