What Are You Practicing?

If only I still looked like that!

I was gymnast for many years growing up.

And in gymnastics, like many other sports, when you are training to learn a new skill, you can’t just simply get up and do it. First you must break down the skill into components – simpler, smaller movements we called “drills”.

Each day we would consciously practice those specific movements in a very deliberate way, and we would repeat those movements over and over again – sometimes thousands of times. But eventually, through sheer repetition, we would become good at those movements. And once you had mastered the various “drills”, you could link them together and be able to pull off the skill.

I think our entire lives are a bit like that…

Each day we repeat movements – thought patterns, ways of interacting with others. And in this repeated practice, we are becoming (or have already become) good at these things.

And so if you constantly swear or use bad language, that is a practice, and you are forming that habit. When you gossip, or speak rudely to others, or lose your temper, this is something you are practicing to be good at.

You may already be good at these things. I know I am.

And so of course the big question is, WHAT ARE YOU PRACTICING?

Because we might have all the good intentions to be or look a certain way, or to end up in a certain place, but the harsh reality is that we become good at what we repeatedly do.

In other words, we become the sum of our daily habits.

And so, what if, instead of practicing the bad stuff that holds us back, we consciously and intentionally started to practice the things we really want to be good at? Things like self-control, patience, kindness, peace, forgiveness…

Then, as we link those “movements” together, we will be able to pull off the greatest skill of all: To live well.


This post was inspired by an article I read at Zen Habits.