Everyone has a purpose. Maybe your goal is to become a world-class footballer, or become the best children’s storyteller, or become a major heart surgeon. We all want to achieve something, but we have different opinions on how to do it.
Some believe that it depends entirely on talent; That is, the same innate skills that few intelligent people are born with. Others believe that this is more about effort; That means practicing non-stop until you reach your goal.
But doing so is probably through a combination of both, and training is a more reliable way to improve abilities than relying solely on talent. Many talented people, such as Ali Daei as a footballer, Babak Bakhtiari as an entrepreneur, or Ahmad Halat as a motivational speaker, have trained hard in their careers.
But there are weak ways to practice that are very common, and sometimes harmful. To improve any skill, you must practice effectively and in an organized manner.
Practice does not make progress. Only complete and correct practice will make progress.
– Vince Lombardi
What is exercise?
Thomas Sterner defines exercise as “conscious repetition of the process with the intention of achieving a specific goal.” Practice enables you to move from learning to action and turn knowledge into ability.
Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson has identified three types of exercise in his 2016 book, The Peak. The first model is a simple exercise. This exercise is possible when you have a general idea of your goal and you repeat the action over and over to achieve it and you are sure that the repetition is enough to achieve your goal. Consider, for example, a guitarist who practices the pentatonic fifty times in a row.
Although researchers have found that simple repetition may have little effect on individual progress, repetition can help you learn the basics and achieve a basic level of performance. Sometimes this is what you need. However, what simple exercise cannot do is help further progress. Without conscious effort to improve further, your abilities will be stopped or even weakened.
The second type of exercise is purposeful exercise that aims to improve abilities by guiding you out of your comfort zone. Working on something beyond your current level of ability can be challenging and rarely enjoyable, but it does motivate you to heal instead of stagnating.
Targeted practice includes three other elements, which are focus, feedback, and precise and defined goals. For example, setting a goal of talking to 20 potential customers a day, and reaching 5 sales per week through March, is more specific and useful than just saying, I want to be a better salesperson.
The third type of exercise is conscious exercise. This exercise takes elements of purposeful practice and adds a coach or mentor who has experience helping elites. However, conscious practice is only useful for disciplines such as sports and music that have a culture of performance optimization and competition, clear rules, and objective criteria for evaluating best performance.
How to have a purposeful workout
It is not always clear how you can practice your skills in the workplace, for example in offices or where there is no real culture of performance appraisal. People are so busy that they ignore training opportunities.
The following seven steps show you how to use purposeful practice in your work.
1. Start positive and stay motivated
Targeted practice is difficult, and to be effective, you must have a real interest in success. It is also vital to acknowledge your abilities, as well as to adopt what Carol Dweck calls the “intellectual structure of growth,” that is, to believe that you have the potential to grow and develop.
Willingness to succeed will help you stay motivated on your path. It is also helpful to build a support network of people who understand your efforts and think about your achievements.
2. Specify precise and defined goals
Make sure your training goals are SMART goals, ie clear, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. For example, “increasing customer satisfaction score to 90% this fiscal year” is a SMART goal, while “I want to provide good service” is not.
Always remember that the overall goal should be to get better at work, not just learn more.
3. Be flexible
To progress, you must challenge yourself and practice things that are beyond your current ability. So in addition to being SMART, your goals should drive you. Avoid easy choices and force yourself to do things that really challenge you.
4. Take time to practice
Kay Anders Erickson states that even the most talented people have to train for about ten thousand hours to reach the highest level of anything. This means 20 hours of training per week for 10 years. Few people can spend such time, but to become proficient in anything you need to practice regularly and consistently.
Be regular and avoid distractions. Initially, limit your workouts to one hour or as long as you can to stay focused so that they do not become too stressful or difficult. In fact, Erickson found that many practitioners practice their skills for an hour or two every day.
5. Start practicing
How you practice is at least as important as the exercise itself, and there are many techniques you can choose from. Many of these techniques are specific to specific areas of skill. For example, pianists use the “separate groups” technique, and writers use the “summarizing” technique. Other techniques are more common and widely used. The following are some of the most commonly used techniques:
One of the most widely used methods is recovery practice. In this technique, you actively and frequently test your knowledge or ask someone to test you by practicing your memory with a flash card and addressing the problems of practice and tests.
It is very important to look at such tests, which require mental effort, as a way to learn a new idea or concept, not a way to evaluate. In a fundamental study, it was concluded that performing these challenging and short tests can greatly improve people’s learning and help them strengthen their long-term memory.
Distributed practice or spacing
This exercise is also very effective. In this technique, you divide your training sessions over time instead of holding intensive sessions, with breaks in between. Although it may seem like a waste of time between workouts, giving you time to absorb information will help you recover. You just have to start early and make sure you review the content regularly.
During this exercise, you will incorporate different skills into one practice session. This can also be effective, as it helps to alert the mind. This technique forces your brain to move between different skills in a quick sequence as it encounters new training issues. This method works best when you have good skills in a subject and want to strengthen your existing skills or use them in a more integrated practice.
However, this technique is not for everyone, and blocking, in which you practice a particular skill in one session and then repeat the process with another skill, can be more effective; Especially when you are new to the job or want to acquire a basic skill.
Complete practice is a technique in which you practice the skill from beginning to end without interruption. When something is new to you, when you have a good range of attention, and when the skill you are practicing is not complicated, this technique works well and allows you to clearly see how all the elements of the skill fit together and that What role do they play in the whole process?
For complex skills such as negotiation, lecturing, and reporting, the partial exercise in which you break down the skill into subdivisions can work well. For example, you can divide board meetings into the ability to organize (create and distribute agendas), manage people (attendees), and use IT equipment (projectors and remote conferencing equipment).
Each of these is a separate skill that can be improved. Practicing in turn helps you stay focused and motivated, but there are challenges when you want to combine them all and master all of these skills. Practicing part-by-part is time consuming, but it makes it easy to identify and strengthen weaknesses.
Some skills are difficult to practice, such as interacting with colleagues and making decisions. The way to work on these intangible skills is to create practice in the work itself by creating the intellectual structure of the practice. This allows you to see everyday tasks not as what you need to do, but as an opportunity to practice and improve your skills.
There are other practice techniques you can use, including role-playing, simulation, and visualization.
6. Seek feedback
Feedback helps you adjust your training strategies. Someone who can spot mistakes, monitor your progress, and give constructive feedback can be a valuable contributor. Think about the feedback you receive and see where you can improve.
7. Stay focused
Focus on what you do and how you do it. Focus on improving aspects of your performance, always keep in mind the goals you want to achieve, and focus your full attention on your work.