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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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    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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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

    26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

    If you pay attention to your everyday life careful enough, you’ll know that you can learn from everything and everyone you come across. Our life is basically full of useful lessons that we should learn.

    Here are 26 useful things to learn that Abhishek A. Singh shared on Quora. Let’s see how these life theories would lead you to live a different life.

    1. Primacy and recency: People mostly remember the first and last things that occurred, barely the middle.

    When scheduling an interview, ask the employer the time slots they do interviews and try to be the first or the last.

    2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind, put a mirror behind you at the counter.

    In this way, angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chance of them behaving irrationally will be lowered significantly.

    3. Once you make a sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

    This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways.

    My previous boss was training me and just gave me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, the first person to talk would lose.

    It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuses, but usually they bought.

    4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait.

    If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue to talk.

    5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous, like public speaking or bungee jumping.

    When we eat, our brain tell ourselves, “I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger.” This has helped me to stay calm.

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    6. People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

    Also, most people like talking about themselves; so ask lots of questions about them.

    7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend. Let them ask you questions about it.

    If you’re able to teach something well, you will be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

    8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you.

    It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen the next time.

    9. The physical effects of stress — breathing rate and heart rate — are almost identical to the physical effects of courage.

    When you’re feeling stressed in any situations, immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, you are NOT stressed.

    10. Pay attention to people’s feet.

    If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

    Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

    11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

    Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

    12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it.

    Fake it till you make it. Period.

    13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes.

    When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds.

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    And as suggested by Brian Stutzman:

    If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring.

    Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time.

    After a second, you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

    14. Build a network.

    Become the information source, and let the information be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office.

    Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

    15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother…

    Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage.

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      16. Stand up straight.

      No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

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      17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary.

      These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

      18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space.

      You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

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        19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks.

        You’d be surprised how long you could drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

        20. Going into an interview… be interested in your interviewers.

        If you focus on learning about them, you’ll seem to be more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

        21. Pay attention parents! Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control.

        For instance, when I want my son to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?”

        Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

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          22. Your action affects your attitude more than your attitude affects your action.

          As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

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          23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

          Notice who you look at and who look at you when you laugh with a group of people!

          24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position.

          If someone is sitting with her legs crossed, cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you, lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them.

          Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

          25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect (suggested by Matt Miller)

          I find the basis of the Benjamin Franklin effect is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing. This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too.

          Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.

          The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

          26. Handle panic and anxiety behaviors by tapping fingers (Suggested by Jade Barbee)

          When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs.

          For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many life situations – emotional sadness, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

          Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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