Practice Makes Permanent
When I was five my parents decided it was time for me to start piano lessons. After all, I'd already mastered reading by the time I was three, so I needed something else to occupy my mind.
Although reading came very easily to me, piano, not so much. But as a budding perfectionist even at age five, this was something I was determined to figure out - not so much for the joy of the music, but to have something to be right about.
Early on it was easy - learning anything new came pretty easily to me. But after a couple of years of basics, when it came time to actually begin mastering this craft, that's when it occurred to me that this was going to be harder than I was used to.
There came a point where my mom had to start dragging me to the piano to practice. Her words of wisdom - and probably pretty enticing for a perfectionist - were "practice makes perfect." What I learned over the 12 years of piano lessons was that practice doesn't make perfect: perfect practice makes perfect. Practice merely makes permanent. So the way we practice is the way we perform.
I'm thinking this morning of how this relates to any activity or skill we're using in our everyday lives as adults, specifically today, communication - and even more specifically, listening. Whether practice makes perfect or practice makes permanent, the key word in each is "practice." So when do we ever take time to practice our communication and listening skills?
For many people, our default communication mode is defensive, holding on desperately to our beliefs so we can maintain some sense of control. But when we listen defensively, we end up communicating defensively, and defense is always the first offense.
How effective are we at transmitting information if our default mode is to defend beliefs that were handed to us over the years without question?
Just notice today where your communication - and especially your listening - has fallen into default mode. Where has your practice (or lack thereof) made permanent in your communication habits? Create some time in your day where you become conscious of your intrapersonal communication: that little voice in your own head that never stops communicating. That's a great place to start, since you have 100% control over your own inner chatter. Practice saying to that voice when you notice it: "not now, I'm busy" and then get busy listening.
Whether perfect practice makes perfect; default practice makes permanent. Which will you choose?