We are told, time and time again, that “practice makes perfect” and then there’s always that person that says, “well, nobody is perfect so I guess that means I don’t need to practice!” Poor humor aside, there is the theme of repetition and practice to develop nearly any skill… Is it just me or do you also find it easier to follow through with things when you know the reasoning behind them?
Athletes who practice regularly improve more than 25% faster than those who do not. Students who dedicate time to studying generally do better on performance exams than those who do not. People who socialize more frequently are typically better at networking than those who do not. Why is practice so powerful? Simple.
With how many things and choices we have to make each day, our brains MUST weed out mundane choices and optimize decision making. This saves you a lot of stress on making decisions on when to breathe, how many times to beat your heart, what’s the fastest way to get to work, how to check for on-coming traffic when you’re crossing the road, and many more. One common method of simplifying life and allowing your conscious to focus on the “important” thoughts is the use of patterns.
When we do a task repeatedly, our brain automatically starts categorizing the different kinds of responses we get without you even knowing. As we are first starting a new activity, the brain is creating the categories and trying to make sense of everything. This takes a lot of brain bandwidth and we move slower, we are more cautious, and we get stressed out or frustrated easily at this stage. Once we have established categories, we begin sorting new events and learning into the categories we have created, occasionally making new ones if something is way out of left field. The categories become more refined and the process gets easier and easier, shortening the effort and time it takes to lodge new information.
Thus, as we practice a skill, we are enhancing the rate at which our brain sorts information in that skill allowing it to simplify our conscious thoughts. The faster it sorts information, the more we can adapt to changes and we begin to move faster, automate tasks, and even multitask. Think of something you have been doing for years and think back to the very first time you did it and compare it to now. Simple, huh?
Practice draws on our brain’s innate desire to use patterns. We build out beaten paths so that we can focus on the ones less trodden. The more routes you spend poking around the corn maze, the higher your chances of escaping. Your brain is your chef’s knife and practice keeps it sharpened. Sharpen it often and you prevent injuries, prevent wasted time, obtain greater results, and optimize your performance.