Repeated practice, but the right kind

When you first embark on picking up a new skill – learning an instrument, or a language, or getting in shape, two things happen – you feel uncomfortable and you improve.

Perhaps with the assistance of a coach or instructor, your initial improvement is fairly rapid as you get to grips with the basics.  You also feel sore or frustrated much of the time.

After this initial stage you now have a basic level of competence or fitness, hopefully enough that a simple practice of the skill is enjoyable. You’re way off mastery, but you endured discomfort and have picked up a new skill. Perhaps you’ve passed a test, or hit a target.

Now there’s a key juncture.

You can now continue to operate at this same level for years, even decades, and enjoy the ride but improve no further – despite the investment of thousands of hours.  For example, you’re skill as a driver is probably no higher than it was 6 months after gaining your license.  Despite thousands of hours of driving the only change you may have picked up is a few bad habits.

Once you have a basic level of competence or fitness, simple practice of the skill will bring marginal or zero improvement no matter how much time you invest.

For further improvement, training has to be designed in such a way as to continue to stretch you and make you uncomfortable.  Perhaps with the help of a coach, or being taken to a new context, drilling particular weaknesses or in a laser focused way doubling down on strengths.

If you’re reading this blog it’s likely you’ve reached at least a basic level of competence at this discipleship stuff.

Truth – you could repeat what you’ve already done for decades and not move significantly forward.

You have to find ways to stretch yourself – coaching, different contexts, absolutely battering particular weaknesses, or doubling down on particular strengths.

But if you never feel uncomfortable, you’re probably not experiencing growth.


One thought on “Repeated practice, but the right kind”

  1. Great comparison and great point Brims. To quote the title of a John Ortberg book. If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat (and I’d add, in the middle of a storm).


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