Practice, Practice, Practice
The old saying “practice makes perfect” is of course incorrect. We all know this through our multitude of experiences. If practice really made perfect then we would be in a much better place, personally and corporately. Doing something repetitively can be a trap, soothing our conscience because we are doing the work, but delivering no real benefit, and often worse.
This is on my mind as I consider how I engage with various protocols I have adopted. I have a morning routine, for example, and try to be consistent in how I do most things, devoting time and energy to this search for consistency. But am I getting any real benefit from this focus on focus? I am reminded of the truthful counterpoint to the untruthful notion that practice makes perfect.
Only perfect practice leads to perfection.
All other practice, imperfect in whatever way, is merely the practice of imperfection. Ask any golfer and they will vouch for the veracity of this truth. Those pesky neural pathways work, regardless of what we build into them.
I am one who believes that structure is generally a good thing. Daily plans, project lists, schedules and the like keep me focused and productive. These are good things, but they can become rote and rob me of higher pursuits.
At the same time, there is great value in developing good habits, which by definition are healthy and beneficial. They are beneficial even when we are on autopilot as we do them. The Apostle Paul frequently reminds us that perseverance, endurance, and consistency are hallmarks of a successful life and meant to be part of our character. In fact, the goal of such practice is to make them part of our first nature.
The key is paying attention to the “what.” What is it that we are focusing on, what is it we are practicing? Possibly there are routines I need to re-evaluate, but I am more interested in the moment in other things I put into practice every day. How I think. My attitude. What I feel in my heart about matters that concern me. How I speak. How I relate to others. What I am interested in and how I am pursuing these interests. These are the things that have been on my heart for the last few days as I ponder my practice of life. It has been imperfect to this point for sure, but tomorrow will dawn in glorious perfection. I desire my practice, the way I go about the act and business of living – my dreams, desires, passions, decisions, and actions – all the big ideas, details, and minutia of life, to carry perfection in a way that allows it to breathe itself into existence in me and around me.
This is a heady goal and I’ve not made it through a single day of my life so far without practicing life poorly in some way. But I am on a marvelous journey of discovery and tomorrow’s sunrise is just around the corner.