As a child, my medical physician was part of a group known as a Family Practice. I remember saying to my mother one day as we were on our way there, “But mom, I do not want them to practice on me, I want them to already know what they are doing!” My mother was quietly amused and she gently explained to me the nuanced meaning of the verb “practice” as both “to work to develop proficiency” and “to perform a skill regularly.” Pride: 0 – Naïveté: 1 🙂
But perhaps I was onto something? Please allow me to explain:
There is a particular dynamic that I have encountered within my own practice of psychotherapy (and spirituality) that I feel constitutes one of the most important factors in determining our success, or lack thereof, in these endeavors. That dynamic is: PRACTICE.
There are plenty of people who seem to KNOW a lot about a particular subject or activity, and who can TALK a lot about it, but they demonstrate very little ability to be able to actually DO something with or within it.
We need only think back to our last Super Bowl as an example. How many of us made comments about play calls, referee decisions, and athlete performance with absolute ZERO time spent on a professional football team? “Armchair Quarterbacks” unite! 🙂
The point is this: While it is certainly a good and worthwhile pursuit to gain greater knowledge in life, true success can only be achieved via dedicated effort to PRACTICE it to proficiency.
In therapy, this means that we are meant to take the insights and techniques learned in session out into the world and APPLY them regularly. It also means that we do well to practice the techniques we are taught repeatedly so they are well trained BEFORE we actually need them.
Let us all join together in an experiment:
One of the most important methods that I teach in my practice is the use of BREATH as a means of centering and calming. This is applied specifically to situations involving anxiety and anger, and it is a precursor to my encouragement that we learn to “respond verses react” to our triggers.
Here is the challenge:
Begin to train yourself to place one deep abdominal breath between a stimulus and your chosen response. Breathe through the nose slowly filling the lungs from bottom to top. Pause monetarily at the top of the breath, and then exhale through the nose (or mouth if particularly stressed) slowly and fully. Pause slightly at the bottom of the breath.
Now, breathe naturally and feel the RESET that the long deep breath provided to your nervous system. You may now respond (verses react) to the situation that prompted the breath.
So, here is the thing:
Just knowing about this technique, and even how to perform it will be of very little use in and of itself. Having the handout posted on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror will be equally ineffective. The key to making this technique work, and to have a profound impact upon our lives lies in DOING IT again and again until it has become second nature. This requires PRACTICE.
I invite everyone to work with this seemingly overly-simplistic technique for one full week, and to then leave a comment regarding how it has impacted your life. Trust me, I have yet to have anyone report anything other than POSITIVE experiences with this method, and for many it has been LIFE-CHANGING.
I like to say that “PRACTICE makes PROFICIENT (not PERFECT),” because we do not have to wait for perfection before a concept or technique can begin positively impacting our lives. All we need to do is begin to PRACTICE regularly, and that PRACTICE will create the conditions necessary for our ongoing SUCCESS.
Now, GO PRACTICE! 😉