Deliberate Practice

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

I learned the phrase deliberate practice reading Angela Duckworth’s book Grit. Deliberate practice is when you practice with a purpose and push yourself to the limit of your skill level versus doing mindless repetitions. An example of this is going to the gym, you can go hop on the treadmill for an hour and watch a movie or listen to music mindlessly or you can push yourself and set a specific goal for how many miles you want to run maybe at an incline and really make yourself sweat. You’re certainly getting something done whether you’re really pushing or not, but one situation just maintains where you’re at while the other makes you stronger. It’s the same with riding, I can just let muscle memory do all the work to ride around or push physically and intellectually. In the book Angela challenges the 10,000 hour rule, if you spend 10,000 hours doing something without deliberate practice where you’re pushed you probably aren’t going to become an expert. I have been driving for years but I certainly couldn’t go drive for Nascar, I’m not trying to improve my skills every time I’m in a car, it’s just a way for me to get around.

I recently wrote about wanting to be able to get myself into a state of flow easier but after learning about this I’ve rethought it. In the book Angela explains that when you go into a flow state it normally means you’re doing something within your ability that you’ve practiced and prepared for versus deliberate practice where you’re pushing your limit. When you’re competing you absolutely want to be able to go into flow state but generally you don’t want that while you’re practicing because it means you aren’t getting better. I know I have taken this to heart and have been deliberately practicing everyday since I’ve gotten to Florida not wasting anytime letting my mind wander and doing things that are easy for me and so far I have gotten much better! Not that I was just messing around before but knowing this makes it all the more motivating. The people I most admire deliberately practice, they're not afraid of messing up because they know the only way to get better is to push themselves past that point of comfort and figure it out which means you’ll undoubtedly fumble. The best coaches I’ve had have always said the same thing too, they are able to help you and push you when you’re with them but it’s up to you to keep pushing when they’re not around and not be terrified to mess it up along the way. When I was beginning to write this my roommate Julia made the comment that she was grateful to be here in Florida because the coaching we get pushes us hard and gives us a plan on what to work on while we’re by ourselves. I explained deliberate practice to her and we both agreed we were in a situation that demanded it and we were both getting better far quicker because of it. Everyday we end the day with sore muscles but a sense of accomplishment. I have had many days where I have rode 10+ horses but have not been as sore and exhausted as I am from the fewer we ride here because in that situation I was going through the motions and in this situation I’m focused on pushing to the edge of my limit every day. Practice doesn't always mean perfect but in my opinion deliberate practice with guidance from someone who knows what they're doing could probably get you pretty close.

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