Focus on the Practice

It’s the new year, and by now you’ve probably reflected on the past year. And you’ve probably started setting—or started thinking about setting—some resolutions and goals for the new year ahead. It’s also likely that your new year’s resolutions aren’t all that new at all.

They’re probably a continuation of what you didn’t accomplish this past year, but want to accomplish this year. So here’s the big question: What will you do differently this year?

What will you do differently this year to achieve your goals? To hit your targets? To improve your life? To break bad habits, and to build better ones in their place?

Heres a suggestion: focus on the Practice.


Focus on the practice

Once you’ve set your resolutions and developed a clear vision of you want—the goals you want to achieve, the outcomes you’d like to have happen—set it all aside and begin to focus on the Practice.

What I mean by that is this: in both personal development and professional development, were taught to set big goals and to develop a vision of what it feels like to accomplish them.

But if you’ve already done these things before—if you’ve already set the goals and envisioned your success, and you still cant seem to succeed, whats the missing piece of the puzzle?

The Practice.

When a world class archer thinks about archery, he doesn’t think about what it feels like to hit the bull’s eye 100 times in a row. He thinks about the steps required to produce that level of mastery. He envisions the process: how to hold the bow, the way his fingers wrap about it as he loads the arrow and positions it. He envisions his stance. His positioning. Every detail.

And most importantly: he does it daily.

He has a Practice.

What if you had to go in for surgery, and the surgeon came up to you said “Don’t worry, I’ve been thinking positive and visualizing a successful surgery all day; we’ve got this” — you’d probably be wondering if you had the right surgeon wouldn’t you?

You don’t care half as much about how much the surgeon has visualized as much you care about how much he has PRACTICED… How many mock surgeries has he performed? How many real surgeries has he performed? What’s his success ratio? Does he perform surgeries regularly? When was his last surgery? Where does he PRACTICE medicine?

What makes us think we should approach our own goals and resolutions any differently than the surgeon who mercilessly prepares and practices prior to slicing your skin open and performing surgery on your body?

Of course, you’ve got to define your goals and resolutions and review them regularly.

But if we want to hit those goals, we’ve got to remember to focus on the practice. [1]

Because the PRACTICE is always more important than any goals and resolutions we could ever set.

The philosophy of having a Practice.

Think of your practice as something that you have rather than something that you have to do in order to achieve a goal or resolution. You won’t be happy once you reach your goal. You’re happiest while you’re in pursuit of the goal.

And that’s the beautiful irony of it all: we plan and practice and sweat and cry and work our asses off for hours and days and weeks on end — all in hopes of achieving a goal.

And once we achieve that great big goal, all we really want to do is go back planning and practicing and working our asses off.

How to put this idea into action

  1. DEFINE THE ROLE. What’s the primary role or domain you operate within?
  2. CLARIFY THE GOAL. Next, write down the biggest resolution or goal you’d like to accomplish this year. Clarify specifically what your ideal outcome looks like–if everything goes the way you want it to go, what does it look like and feel like to have successfully accomplished your goal?
  3. PICK THE PRACTICE. Finally, write down at least ONE thing – one PRACTICE – you can engage yourself in on a daily basis (or at the very least, on a weekly basis) to help you achieve your long-term goal. (For example: writing.)
  4. PLAN THE PRACTICE. Time-block it on your calendar (ex: I’ll write for two hours every day.)
  5. PERFORM THE PRACTICE. Don’t let anything or anyone derail you from your Practice. Love the Practice. Perform it religiously.


Research on “Mental Contrasting” has proven that when we’re working towards a goal, visualizing the steps and obstacles we must take and overcome are more important than visualizing the successful achievement of the goal. See Succeed by Heidi Grant Halverson for more on this idea.  ↩

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