Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Practice CAN Make Perfect, but Always Makes Permanent

I love this article about practicing habits and have shared it with many friends during discussions about music, piano and practicing.  I believe I first heard from a sister missionary who served here in our ward (I won't mention names just in case), practice makes permanent.  I also believe that it's 100% true.  As the article I mentioned indicates, when people were observed and evaluated in their methods of practice, the following was discovered.

1. Practicing longer didn’t lead to higher rankings.
2. Getting in more repetitions had no impact on their ranking either.
3. The number of times they played it correctly in practice also had no bearing on their ranking.

What did matter was:

1. How many times they played it incorrectly. The more times they played it incorrectly, the worse their ranking tended to be.
2. The percentage of correct practice trials did seem to matter. The greater the proportion of correct trials in their practice session, the higher their ranking tended to be.

It also mentions that the top three most influential factors in the end result of the experiment were as follows:

-The precise location and source of each error was identified accurately, rehearsed, and corrected.
-Tempo of individual performance trials was varied systematically; logically understandable changes in tempo occurred between trials (e.g. slowed things down to get tricky sections correct; or sped things up to test themselves, but not too much).
-Target passages were repeated until the error was corrected and the passage was stabilized, as evidenced by the error’s absence in subsequent trials.

Note how all three of these things have direct connection, not with an attitude of just "practice, practice, practice", but more so with how they responded to their mistakes while playing.

However, this entry is not meant to be applied or to just music or any other art or skill.  Our very thought patterns, habits, communication and perspectives heavily depend on the kinds of practices we choose to develop and strengthen in those areas and more.  I can practice communicating kindly and effectively all I want, but if my practice consists of making the same mistakes over and over again without actually doing something different, the bad habits I am really practicing will stick.  No matter how much I think I'm going to do better next time, I can think nothing but "I'm going to [insert action step here] better next time" 100,000 times in one day, but if the hoped result behind it does not become reality in what I say and do, I have just continued to practice the same thing. Instead of making the change I am looking for, I have only made it worse. Planning, as critical as it is, will never mean anything if the plan is not deliberately and actively applied and made into reality.

This also applies to religion.  There is a reason why the Lord has declared that sexual relations of any kind are to be reserved for marriage.  I have been a first hand witness to the devastation that pornography causes in people's lives.  I have personal experience with how difficult it really is to kick a habit like that and one thing I know for sure is that it is a prime example of a habit that takes the right kind of practice to rid it's infectious poison from our lives.  No matter how many times I kept saying to myself I'll never do it again, until I actually turned full force to my Savior and went about recovery His way instead of my own way, the problem only gained momentum.  However, I know also know now that, especially in this area, practice makes permanent, not always perfect.

There are moments in an addicts life where they are literally in the act of their addiction at the same time they are saying to themselves "I shouldn't be doing this, I should stop. Umm... that means stop! Stop it! I said stop it stupid! You freaking retard, idiot, moron! Stop it now! You are ruining your life and relationships!" And they keep going.  Why?  Because their practice habits in recovery have not included effective identification of the problem or core reasons behind their thought patterns and the correct response to them.  They have literally given up their agency, their ability to choose, to a degree.  They have not yet turned, full force, to the most effective source of healing and a change of heart and mind, the Lord, Jesus Christ.  While I'm on this subject, to those who are struggling with any kind of addiction, please don't wait until the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution.  Save yourself that kind of pain.  Start implementing effective practice habits in your life now.

There's a song I really like by Cherie Call called That's Where Faith Lives.  The lyrics go like this:

"It doesn't live at the end of a rainbow,
It doesn't sleep at the edge of your bed
And sometimes it doesn't fit so well
With the plans you're making in your head
But just before you reach the service station,
Right before the car runs out of gas
In the eye of the tornado
With all the strong winds blowing past

That's where faith lives
That's where fear tries to go
That's where everybody guesses
And you're the one who knows
And it may take the most that you can give
To find the place where faith lives

It lives in the fiery furnace, and it lives in the lion's den
And sometimes in the wilderness where it lives and dies and lives again
It lives where the doors fly open, it lives where the sun comes out
It lives in the window where you throw away all your doubts"

It's in the moments of "now is the time to decide, now is the moment of change", as Cherie puts it, right in the eye of the tornado, where we have to give our all to accurate recognition of and response to our previous mistakes.  Yes, mistakes will be made no matter what in the process of perfection and we can't learn to fix mistakes and overcome them if we don't make them in the first place, but it's always better to make those changes sooner than later, seeking the Lord's timing for us instead of ours.  No expertise in sweet talk, no social or intellectual prowess, no degree of eloquence (to ourselves of anyone else) will be sufficient, of itself, to make the things we practice in our lives improve if the key to effective practice is not applied.  No matter the area of ability, in order for practice to result in perfection we must make sure that the things we are making permanent about our practice are things that will make us perfect.

It's all in how you respond to your mistakes.

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