As a recent attendee at the Creativity and Personal Mastery program that I have previously written about, I was tickled to receive and read a review copy of "The Practicing Mind" by Thomas Sterner. His book is an active reminder of the value I derived from the program, as it echoes much of the content. It's also foretells the huge payoffs that come with learning how to "practice".
What does "practice" really mean?
If I were to focus on the intended outcome of this article, I would be thinking and worrying about whether you were going to read it, and how you might act upon it for your — and even my — good. That would have me focused on the future. And then I might interrupt my train of thought by fretting about how my last article was received, and whether any of this writing even matters. And I'd be consumed with the past.
Instead, as an adherent to Sterner's beliefs expressed in his book, I am "practicing." I am deeply engaged in the task at hand. Tapping out the words on my iPad, crafting sentences as I write, sifting through ideas as they flit into my brain, all the while strapped into my seat in a bouncy airplane flying home from a short vacation in New York City.
I am doing this imperfectly, as I catch my mind wandering — to our homecoming, to all the work I'll have awaiting me this week … and on and on. But I keep returning to the exercise, and therefore I am practicing at getting better, training my mind to stay on task, learning how to do the "staying present" thing better.
Why bother with practicing?
In his short and fairly pithy book, Sterner writes:
"Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. In fact, life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort of refining our motions. When the proper mechanics of practice are understood, the task of learning something new becomes a stress-free experience of joy and calmness, a process which settles all areas in your life and promotes proper perspective on all of life's difficulties."
High-flying stuff indeed! But Sterner should know — he is an accomplished musician, concert piano technician, pilot, student of philosophy and sports psychology, archery practitioner and golfer, all of which have demanded discipline, focus and enormous amounts of practice!