Does Practice Make Perfect?
by Krishna Kumar,BTME, MBA, BCC, President – IAC
It’s the rare parent or teacher who haven’t heard their wards, whilst in the midst of practicing an activity, complain of being ‘bored’? If they were doing activities that seem like ‘work’ (studying) we might appreciate this feeling but when the activity is one that is also fun-filled, like learning to play sports or a musical instrument it appears puzzling.
Our usual reaction in such situations, is to suggest that ‘practice makes perfect,’ a perfectly acceptable response if only it were wholly accurate. Does continuous, mind-numbing repetition of a particular movement actually lead to perfection or is there more to the act of practice?
In seeking an answer to these questions the interpretation offered by Aikido Master and author, George Leonard, is fascinating. He lists practice as one the five keys to Mastery. While in normal usage the word practice is a verb to denote an activity that a person engages in, he recommends that it is better conceived as a noun. Practice, he suggests, is not something that we do but rather have or that we are. The word, he says, “is akin to the Chinese word tao or the Japanese word do, both of which mean, literally, road or path. Practice is the path on which you travel, just that.’
When practice is applied as a noun, it stretches beyond a routine activity that leads us to a specific goal or destination. Instead, it extends to being an integral part of our lives.
Adopting the concept of making practice integral to our being, we would first need to find a way that helps us to escape the drudgery of repetition, an early step which leads to a state of boredom. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the renowned polymath and positive psychologist, while discovering the concept of being in ‘flow’ links boredom to seeking an active balance between the challenge that is posed and the level of skill applied in dealing with it.
Persons engaged in an activity tends to relax and subsequently slip towards boredom if their skill levels comfortably exceed that needed to manage the challenge. At this stage, to stay on the path to mastery requires us to first enlarge the scope of the task and then working on developing the skill needed to meet it. Consequently, as the task continues to increase in complexity and get more demanding we start getting more and more absorbed and actually find enjoyment in performing it.
The coaching profession offers us the unique opportunity where practice is almost always in a unique context with little scope for boredom. For instance, were we to ask a variety of clients the same set of questions, we will be assured of a unique set of answers.
The IAC’s mission is ‘To Expand the Path to Coaching Mastery.” As practice pulls us towards Mastery in coaching, then it important that for Mastery we remain on the path.
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