Having spent my formative years as a figure skater, the one adage that was drilled into me, and that I have consequently always held tightly to was . . . yup. . .”practice makes perfect”. But events over the past month have had me questioning whether that’s always the case.
See, back in the middle of January, my son came home from school with a box of multiplication flash cards and a log sheet. The note from the teacher accompanying these two items explained that each child in the class was to answer as many flash cards as they could in ONE minute (a new card could not be shown until the previous one had been answered correctly), and they were to repeat this exercise five time each day.
At first, we ALL thought this little exercise was awesome. So awesome in fact, that even my daughter wanted in on the action, so we started a sight word card challenge for her. Each time the exercise was repeated, the scores went up, and everyone was excited.
But as the days ticked by, and the improvements in the results started to slow, the enthusiasm started to wain. In its place crept frustration and impatience.
How many times as adults have we started some new program, regime, diet, only to get frustrated and impatient as the results slowed, or stopped appearing altogether, at which point, as adults not necessarily held accountable to anyone but ourselves, we abandon our ambitions.
With my kids, it was easy to find ways to keep them excited with their practice – I started calculating daily average scores, which tended to increase daily, even if individual scores didn’t change too much, among numerous other things.
But as an astute girlfriend pointed out – once you hit a certain point, there were diminishing returns to this exercise.
Concurrently, through the month of February, I was engaged in “Practice February” with my One Little Word project – those of us in the course were encouraged to pick one thing and to “practice” it daily throughout the month of February. And . . . I was also working through my daily, weekly and monthly goals in my PowerSheets. And . . . I was trying to keep up with working out (in the event that I changed my mind and entered the CrossFit Open). And . . .I was practicing running as much as I could in preparation for the Tinkerbell 10K.
And . . . at the end of the month, which happened to co-incide with my 40th birthday . . .I realized I wasn’t as happy with things as I thought I should/would be, given how well everything in my life was running.
Cue the concept of diminishing returns, the idea that maybe all this practice was running me into the ground, and a suggestion by the Coach to take a break from my regular workout regime . . .
And so I find myself here, embarking on a new month of practice – the practice of yoga, of stretching, of breathing, and of letting go of what I thought I NEEDED to do to feel the way I wanted to feel. And you know what – this whole idea of NOT practicing what I have been doing for the last few years is helping me feel more the way I want to feel. Oh the irony . . .
While I doubt I’ll ever completely abandon the “practice makes perfect” adage, I am realizing that practicing one thing till you’re absolutely perfect may well result in diminishing returns – to how you feel, physically and mentally and emotionally. And if you find yourself at the point of diminishing returns, then it’s time to take a look at finding a new way, or something entirely new to practice.