Are you aware of the 10,000 hour theory? If we only apply ourselves to our chosen endeavor for 10,000 hours then we will become an expert - seems simple enough, assuming you have 10,000 hours spare! Unfortunately even if you had the time, this theory is too simple and to reach your peak, whatever level that may be, requires more than just time, it requires ‘purposeful practice’. Anders Ericsson in his book Peak sets out a guide for those of us who want to achieve the extraordinary.
We all have goals – work goals, life goals, sports goals, weight loss goals, personal goals and to achieve those goals we have to put the effort in, we have to practice. However, have you ever wondered why when you practice, at first you see great results and then over time, even thought you are doing the same thing, the results get less and less. What is clear from Ericsson’s studies is that repetitive practice, doing the same thing over and over again, will not help you achieve your goal – those hours will not tally to your 10,000 ‘expert’ hours.
When you stop improving at whatever skill you are trying to gain, does that mean you have hit your level and you chose the wrong goal? Do you need to accept that others are born with natural talent and you should stop and look for another goal? Ericcson believes not and instead suggests you try purposeful or deliberate practice. This type of practice has a different quality to it than just repetitive practice. The essence of purposeful practice is that it is focused, involves feedback and takes you outside of your comfort zone.
Try this approach when using your MasterPlanner. Firstly think about what goal you want to achieve. A goal can feel impossible, an infinite journey away. To make it achievable focus on breaking it down into as many steps as possible and set those steps down each week so that you have a clear, manageable path to follow. At the end of every month review what you have done – what has been effective and successful and what has not worked. This reflection time is the feedback part of your purposeful practice and helps you monitor your progress. If you can, seek the views of others as you cannot improve and move forward without understanding what might be holding you back – write it down. Celebrate the successes and note the learning. Don’t be put off if you have to do things that feel uncomfortable. Purposeful practice is designed to take you outside of your comfort zone. You need to be courageous and try new approaches to achieve your goals. Sometimes you may hit a point where you feel stuck – this is the clue that your old methods are no longer working and the time has come to look for innovative ways to overcome the unfamiliar.
So if you have a goal and it feels like you are having to work harder and harder to succeed and it seems that you are never quite reaching your level then apply the maxim ‘don’t try harder, try different’. It might be uncomfortable but it just might mean you reach your next peak.