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Deliberate Practice

Practice and Mindfulness

Martina Navratilova, perhaps the best female tennis player who ever lived, once said, “I just try to concentrate on concentrating.”

Her phrase comes to mind as I digest a recent post on Larry O’Connor’s blog, Run4yr life. Larry is a marathoner preparing for Boston in April. From the sound of this post, he has reached a higher level of training, a level where he thinks carefully about the effect of each and every training move.

We call this mindfulness, and it’s one of the most important qualities we can bring to practice. Here’s the difference between practice and mindful practice.

In practice, you might hit 100 golf balls. In mindful practice, you hit one ball, analyze the result, and decide on the adjustments to be made. Then you hit another one and repeat the process. With practice you might improve. With mindful practice, you improve. A lot.

“What we hope ever to do with ease we may learn first to do with diligence,” said Samuel Johnson.

Mindful practice, also called deliberate practice, falls in line with the findings of Dr. Anders Ericksson, the world’s so-called “expert on experts.” His first condition for optimal learning is “motivation to attend to task.” In plain English, that means “”caring enough to think carefully about what you’re doing.”

It sounds like Larry O’Connor is doing just that.

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