In this new world it no longer makes sense to think of people as born with fixed reserves of potential; instead, potential is an expandable vessel, shaped by the various things we do throughout our lives. Learning isn’t a way of reaching one’s potential but rather a way of developing it.
— and , Peak
The work of psychologists such ashas challenged the belief that talent and potential are something with which people are born. Instead, the research demonstrates that expertise in any domain is a skill that can be developed through deliberate practice. The importance of practice is relevant for virtually any area, including education, workplace training, athletics, and performing arts. Experts and elite performers at the top of their fields have all acquired their remarkable skills through a slow process of learning and training. In highly competitive fields, the process can take decades. The insights from this work apply not only to top performers but to anyone. It is possible to improve your ability at virtually anything through deliberate practice.
Repeatedly performing a task will not necessarily lead to improvement. Learners must go beyond repetition. Deliberate practice is a focused and goal-directed striving to improve one’s performance. Deliberate practice takes advantage of human capability to achieve things that were previously not possible through small incremental improvements. High-quality, purposeful practice has several essential characteristics:
- Continual improvement: Deliberate practice pushes people out of their comfort zone. Individuals must continuously strive to reach levels of performance beyond their current capability.
- Goals: Identification weaknesses and areas for improvement, allowing individuals to set clear goals.
- Feedback: Constant evaluation of performance to determine when goals have been achieved. Also important for motivation.
- Focus and determination: Deliberate practice requires a person’s full attention. It is an effortful and solitary pursuit, that feels like hard work rather than fun.
The principles of deliberate practice can be used to achieve significant performance improvements in any area.
So here we have purposeful practice in a nutshell: Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress. Oh, and figure out a way to maintain your motivation.
— and , Peak