Think about something you excel at–one skill you’re better at than most of your friends. Maybe it’s playing a sport or a musical instrument. Or maybe you’re great with numbers or are a talented writer.
Is this skill something you were born with?
For a very rare few, perhaps.
But for most of us, the way we become great at something is by practicing.
However, not all practice is created equal. A common belief is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to make you an expert in any given subject area. This myth has recently been debunked though.
What we now know is the quality of practice is far more important than the quantity. Scientist Anders Ericsson calls this “deliberate practice,” which means intently focusing on a skill, often with the guidance of a skilled teacher, coach, or mentor. Ericsson says deliberate practice is:
- Designed to continuously improve performance.
- Repeated over and over.
- Contains a continuous feedback loop.
- Mentally demanding.
- Driven by processed-focused goals rather than outcome-focused ones.
In this article, I’m going to show you how you can take knowledge you gain about healthy eating and fitness and actually put it to use with deliberate practice.
It Takes More Than Information To Change Behavior
Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Learning to shoot a basketball is no different than learning how to eat healthy. You can read a million “tips” about each, but until you practice applying those tips, that knowledge is essentially useless.
You need a process for implementing that information into your life. And then once you’ve created processes that work for you, you need to practice those behaviors repeatedly … just like any other skill.
At first it is–changing behavior is hard.
It goes way beyond willpower, motivation, etc.
Here’s how you can take the knowledge you’ve learned (on this site and others) and start using it to get the body you want.
How to Use Deliberate Practice to Make Healthy Changes in Your Life
Create daily routines. Whether you call them routines, rituals, systems, etc. one of the first steps to eating better and exercising more is to create habits that lead to daily deliberate practice. Here’s how you start to do that …
Take baby steps. The power of small wins is well documented in behavior change research. If you want to eat healthier and make sure those changes stick, the last thing you should do is drop everything and go on a diet. Start small. Eat an apple every day for a snack instead of chips for the next two weeks. Make a salad for dinner every night. Just pick something small and simple you can do every day.
Plan your healthy behaviors each day. Strategy trumps willpower, and that’s why it’s vital you have a game plan every day for how you will approach your health. Here’s the simple way I do it: keep a planner with items on your to-do list. As mentioned above, start with just one or two tiny behaviors and build up from there. Planning and writing down your list each day will help you practice those healthy behaviors daily and form habits that last.
Make the ‘work’ part fun. Deliberate practice can be tedious and quite boring when it comes to diet and exercise. That’s why you should find ways to make it fun. Pick an exercise you actually enjoy. Involve family members in the kitchen and ask them to help prep or cook healthy meals. Throw some music on and dance around in the kitchen while you cook. Whatever you can do to spice things up a bit, do it. Your health is a serious subject, but sometimes it helps not to take it too seriously.
Stop multitasking. Focus your efforts on the one thing you’re practicing without distraction whenever possible. Daniel Goleman, who wrote a book called Emotional Intelligence, said this:
Daydreaming defeats practice; those of us who browse TV while working out will never reach the top ranks. Paying full attention seems to boost the mind’s processing speed, strengthen synaptic connections, and expand or create neural networks for what we are practicing.
Ask for feedback. The best athletes, musicians, and even business executives all have coaches. If you’re serious about going from “average” or “good” to “great,” then you may want to consider a coach or mentor. Find a personal trainer or health coach to help challenge you and you’ll get in better shape faster. Most people continue to just go through the motions and continue to make the same mistakes over and over because they’re not getting any feedback. Swallow your pride and ask for help from someone who knows more than you.
Don’t settle. It’s easy to become content once you learn a new skill or two. I’ve seen tons of people go to a personal trainer or health coach once or twice and then stop going because they think they’re at a level that’s “good enough.” Don’t settle for good enough. Strive to be better than average … to not accept mediocrity. Healthy people don’t believe in perfection … but they do seek continuous improvement. This is what the best-of-the-best do differently: they never stop learning.
The source of all major barriers in our lives is ourselves. If you’re struggling to get where you want to be, the first step is to look inward. What are the things you do that are holding you back? Don’t say nothing. We all have them.
For example, after 7 p.m. I don’t like to work out. It doesn’t matter if I have absolutely nothing to do. After 7, I know I’m not getting my butt downstairs to exercise. So I make sure I exercise every day before this time.
Here’s what I recommend for you: commit to one small change right now you will do every day for the next week (e.g., eat a salad, do 20 pushups, make a smoothie for breakfast). Write it down and check it off your list every day after it’s done. Then leave a comment or email me at Scott@thehealthyeatingguide.com and let me know what you’re doing and why.
This will help you start to apply what you learn and create the deliberate practice necessary to get the body you want. It worked for me, and it’ll work for you too if you do the things I outlined above. Let me know how it goes!