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Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More

Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More

We all have goals that we want to achieve in our lives. These goals may include learning a new language, eating healthier and losing weight, becoming a better parent, saving more money, and so on.

It can be easy to assume that the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future is caused by a lack of knowledge. This is why we buy courses on how to start a business or how to lose weight fast or how to learn a new language in three months. We assume that if we knew about a better strategy, then we would get better results. We believe that a new result requires new knowledge.

What I’m starting to realize, however, is that new knowledge does not necessarily drive new results. In fact, learning something new can actually be a waste of time if your goal is to make progress and not simply gain additional knowledge.

It all comes down to the difference between learning and practicing.

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The Difference Between Learning and Practicing

In Thomas Sterner’s book, The Practicing Mind (audiobook), he explains the key difference between practicing and learning.

“When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal. The words deliberate and intention are key here because they define the difference between actively practicing something and passively learning it.”
—Thomas Sterner, The Practicing Mind

Learning something new and practicing something new may seem very similar, but these two methods can have profoundly different results. Here are some additional ways to think about the difference.

  • Let’s say your goal is to get stronger and more fit. You can research the best instructions on bench press technique, but the only way to build strength is to practice lifting weights.
  • Let’s say your goal is to grow your startup. You can learn about the best way to make a sales pitch, but the only way to actually land customers is to practice making sales calls.
  • Let’s say your goal is to write a book. You can talk to a best-selling author about writing, but the only way become a better writer is to practice publishing consistently.

Passive learning creates knowledge. Active practice creates skill.

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practice-vs-learning

    Let’s consider three more reasons to prioritize active practice over passive learning.

    1. Learning Can Be a Crutch That Supports Inaction

    In many cases, learning is actually a way to avoid taking action on the goals and interests that we say are important to us. For example, let’s say you want to learn a foreign language. Reading a book on how to learn a foreign language quickly allows you to feel like you are making progress (“Hey, I’m figuring out the best way to do this!”). Of course, you’re not actually practicing the action that would deliver your desired outcome (speaking the foreign language).

    In situations like this one, we often claim that we are preparing or researching the best method, but these rationalizations allow us to feel like we are moving forward when we are merely spinning our wheels. We make the mistake of being in motion rather than taking action. Learning is valuable until it becomes a form of procrastination.

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    2. Practice Is Learning, But Learning Is Not Practice

    Passive learning is not a form of practice because although you gain new knowledge, you are not discovering how to apply that knowledge. Active practice, meanwhile, is one of the greatest forms of learning because the mistakes you make while practicing reveal important insights.

    Even more important, practice is the only way to make a meaningful contribution with your knowledge. You can watch an online course about how to build a business or read an article about a terrible disaster in a developing nation, but that knowledge is unproductive unless you actually launch your business or donate to those in need. Learning by itself can be valuable for you, but if you want to be valuable to others, then you have to express your knowledge in some way.

    3. Practice Focuses Your Energy on the Process

    “Progress is a natural result of staying focused on the process of doing anything.”
    —Thomas Sterner, The Practicing Mind

    The state of your life right now is a result of the habits and beliefs that you have been practicing each day. When you realize this and begin to direct your focus toward practicing better habits day in and day out, continual progress will be the logical outcome. It is not the things we learn nor the dreams we envision that determines our results, but rather that habits that we practice each day. Fall in love with boredom and focus your energy on the process, not the product.

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    The Bottom Line

    Is passive learning useless? Of course not. In many cases, learning for the sake of learning can be a beautiful thing. Not to mention that soaking up new information can help you make more informed decisions when you do decide to take action.

    That said, the main point of this article is that learning by itself does not lead to progress. We often hide behind information and use learning as an excuse to delay the more difficult and more important choice of actually doing something. Spend less time passively learning and more time actively practicing. Stop thinking and start doing.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Featured photo credit: Evan Long via flickr.com

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    Published on June 19, 2019

    Your Beliefs About Success May Be Holding You Back

    Your Beliefs About Success May Be Holding You Back
    Pause for a moment and think about how you would describe success.

    If your description is dominated by money or status, then your image of success is faulty.

    For example, there are countless people who have these assets but don’t feel successful. Some of these people have enormous amounts of disposable income, but work so many hours during the day that they have no life beyond their work.

    Would you regard these people as successful?

    At first glance, I likely wouldn’t.

    And, then there are the endless celebrities who go from fame to failure (think bankruptcy, addictions and worse).

    Are they successful?

    Probably not.

    In truth, success is about happiness and fulfillment in life.

    But, there is more than one definition of success. Just look at the above example of the person who worked too hard to spend their money. If they’re happy with their life, then we shouldn’t criticize their version of success.

    So how about you? Do you have a clear definition of what success looks like for you?

    If you don’t, you’ll be constantly chasing someone else’s idea of success, and could find yourself totally unfulfilled and miserable.

    The good news is that over the next few minutes, I’m going to give you the tools you need to build a crystal clear picture of YOUR SUCCESS.

    Positive Thinking

    With the right attitude, anything can seem possible.

    For instance, if you’re fed up with your job, but do nothing to change it, then you’ll likely be stuck there for years to come. But, if you see the job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better, then not only will you enjoy your work more, but you’ll have something positive to aim towards (e.g., a promotion or new job).

    The example above demonstrates a little-known factor of success… suffering!

    Yes, suffering may be a negative thing that most people go out of their way to avoid; but successful people use suffering as a springboard to big achievements. Mindset really does separate the losers from the winners.

    Another thing you can do, is to gradually build up your positivity and confidence by tracking your progress towards your goals. And, each time you accomplish something – however small – be sure to celebrate it!

    This is a great way to propel you towards success.

    The Purpose of a Purpose

    What is your purpose in life?

    These are questions I suggest you spend some time thinking about. To help you find the answers, consider the following:

    If you just seek a career, all you will find is a career.

    But, if you seek a purpose, you’ll find something much more than a career – you’ll find your calling. And when you’ve found this, and you begin following it, you’ll be firmly in the middle of the happiness, satisfaction and success zone.

    This is backed by science, with research showing that people who have a purpose and meaning in life have an increase in:[1]
    • Overall well-being
    • Mental and physical health
    • Resiliency
    • Self-esteem

    But, don’t mistake seeking happiness and success as your purpose. These things are a natural result of following your purpose – but shouldn’t be your focal point.

    Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said it well:

    “It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness.”

    What about YOUR purpose?

    If you’re struggling to identify it, look for the things in your life that you’re good at, enthuse you, and provide a benefit to the world.

    Becoming a Better You

    Are your beliefs holding you back?

    If yes, here are three things you can do RIGHT NOW to break out of your mind trap:

    1. Boost Your Confidence: you can do this by overcoming challenges that come your way. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, face this challenge head-on by agreeing to do regular presentations for your company, or by joining a public speaking organization like Toastmasters International. Speak in public often enough, and your fear of it will plunge like a river going over a waterfall.
    2. Develop Healthy Habits: I’m talking about positive habits that will serve you day in, day out. Habits such as lifelong learning, eating well, and waking up early. When these things are automatic for you, you’ll reap incredible benefits from them. Take eating well, for example. You’ll feel better. You’ll look better. And you’ll have way more energy to make things happen in your life.
    3. Invoke the Magic of Goal Setting: Without goals, you’ll drift through life like a plastic bottle in the sea. But with goals, you’ll be like a 100m sprinter running towards the finishing line. Goals really are powerful tools. They’ll direct your focus and energy, and will allow you to track your progress in life. I recommend the SMART goal-setting method (find out about this here).

    And, always remember… don’t compare yourself to others; only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

    Each step you take forward is making you a better version of you.

    Success Is Self-Love

    I encourage you to take the tips I’ve shared in this article and put them into action in your life. Ideally, starting right now!

    Firstly, transform your mindset by facing up to challenges and overcoming them. Then spend time to discover your purpose. And, once you’ve found it – start following it.

    Becoming a better version of you will take some time, but will be worth the wait. Not only will you reach into untapped potential in your life, but you’ll also develop respect and love for yourself along the way.

    So don’t let your beliefs hold you back anymore. BREAK FREE from them and start enjoying a happy, healthy and successful life.

    Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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