One thing almost all of us have in common is that we often criticize ourselves for not being *better* than we are.
For me I go through the following thoughts: I should be a better person, a better mom, a better partner, a better daughter, a better artist, a better athlete, a better writer, etc. The list goes on.
For some reason I have this belief that I should be perfect. No practice necessary. Goodness should be instant, inherent, innate. Not being good is weakness, a fault- somehow it implies that I am not wholly committed to living a fulfilling, mindful, and good life.
Practice (no matter what it’s for) always feels INDULGENT. I feel guilty about it, somehow believing that if I were just *better* at everything, I wouldn’t need to spend the time practicing. Good moms don’t need practice. Good artists don’t need practice. Good writers don’t need practice. Good people don’t need practice…
But it doesn’t work that way. Let’s look at the facts:
Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps is in the pool (ie practicing) swimming 6-7 hours EVERY DAY of the year. And there’s four years in between the summer Olympics. So that’s about 9,490 hours of practice for a 50 second race. It’s the practice that makes him a great swimmer, not the win. Because he couldn’t make the win, break the record, get the gold, unless he had all those hours of practice.
If you have a kid in grade school you are familiar with the weekly spelling tests. Think about it- your kids studies (is practices) those words for at least an hour or two and the test takes about five minutes. It’s the practice that makes your kid a good student, not the test score. Because without the practice, the studying, your kid couldn’t get a great test score.
The average artist during the Renaissance was expected to apprentice (ie practice) 6-13 YEARS before creating finished and public pieces of art.
Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, age 17, practices piano for about 4 hours every day, and that’s including being in school full time and doing other activities. She started playing when she was four years old. She wouldn’t be such an incredible “prodigy” if she hadn’t spent those countless hours at the piano, practicing.
Most professional or aspiring ballerinas rehearse (ie practice) 2-6 hours per day from the time they are children. Swan Lake is about two and a half hours long. There’s no way any dancer could dance in Swam Lake, or any performance, without the practice put in beforehand.
Tibetan Monks who create Sand Art train (ie practice) for eight years before they begin to travel around the world creating the beautiful mandalas from sand. When creating the sand art, they work from 10am-6pm for three days. Then they blow away the sand, which takes about ten seconds. In this case, it’s *all* about the practice.
Both doctors and lawyers, who both have to spend an ENORMOUS amount of time in school to learn their trades, call their businesses “practices.”
Life is basically a never-ending series of practice. As we live, we learn. We put what we learn into practice each and every day. We grow, we make new observations and accumulate new skills and attitudes and approaches. And we put those into practice. That’s what life *is*- a 90 year (give or take) opportunity to practice living a good, full life.
So I propose we stop looking for opportunities to be perfect, and instead look for opportunities to practice.
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.