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Practice Makes Permanent

You know the adage, "Practice makes perfect," but does it really? What you do, day in and out, defines who you are and determines your results. There are reasons why you want to feel competent at what you do, reasons why you want and need activities you can do on autopilot. The act of doing something over and over doesn't ultimately move anyone toward perfection. It leads to a point of permanence, where you do what you do the same way, every day. How do you get to the state of permanence? 

Do you have all the information? You will encounter those who, good intentioned or not, stand in your way. They may block, misdirect or withhold key information. Without this, of course, you can't perform at an optimal level. This is where you need to trust your gut. When you know the outcome isn't what it could be, don't be content to meet that outcome. Ask questions. Why is it done this way? Why are you not addressing that process or concern? Recognize your doubt as a sign of an incomplete picture and chase down the piece you're missing. Getting it right leads to making it permanent.

The comfort of learned knowledge. There's a reason people fall on the familiar, that they practice what they always practice. It's comfortable. It's meant to be comfortable. It starts in the physiology of their brains. Those things you know, that you've been doing for a long time, exist in your brain as established neural pathways. When you perform familiar tasks, these pathways kick in and take over.

By contrast, learning new skills happens elsewhere in the brain, in the same part where emotions live, where the fight or flight response originates. New situations are stressful. It's what puts your brain up at the top of the consciousness chain. Faced with new stimuli, you process, analyze, deduce and ultimately solve or contain the problem you are facing. As the process progresses, that knowledge becomes hard wired. You practice your responses and make them permanent.

The illusion of perfection. If you're not obtaining perfect goals, that doesn't mean that everything you're doing is wrong. It may mean you're missing a key piece of information as stated above. There may be something off in your process or timing, but it's very unlikely you're a complete failure at what you're doing.

When you feel that unease, that discomfort from not achieving your vision of success, your brain is actively seeking new information, solutions to the disparity between reality and vision. You are looking for the piece of the puzzle that unifies where you are with where you want to be. You learn through repetition. Some people need to do something 100 times before they construct the synapses necessary to move knowledge and skill to that comfortable part of their brains. Some need only five repetitions.

Sometimes that's how close success really is. You may be just one piece of information or one more moment of perseverance away.

By Cassandra Johnson