Skill Building. It is unusual for us to consider sharpening our skills at something a little bit each day, but that's exactly how people move from amateur to expert. It is a dedication to practicing something every single day that adds up over time. You've probably heard of the 10,000 hours milestone. Practicing every single day is a big part of reaching that. While this might seem tedious to some, for me, there has been great freedom in knowing that if I write every single day, if I take a photograph every single day, I will get better. No matter what! I wear many hats and none of them offer me the ability to learn the way I prefer. Before my daughter was born my learning looked like this: Hours alone in the studio for days, forgetting to eat, coming out to use the bathroom and finishing all my work in long chucks of consecutive time, instead of a little bit each day. While this is still how I prefer to work, it does not work for the people around me. Being the kind of parent I want to be has required me to work around my daughter's schedule. This means getting things done a small bit at a time. One foot in front of the other, rather than the all at once binge fest that I so adore. I've managed to adjust and this project has proven to me over the last nearly 4 years that doing something in small doses over a long period of time does indeed work!
I'll share three different skill building based daily practice ideas with you today, along with a more standard These Three Things prompt related to building a skill. All ideas can be mixed and matched. Carried on consecutively, or out of order. Just start somewhere.
1. 7 Days a week. This approach works great for languages, and exercise practices like yoga and running. The idea is to do just a little bit each day and over the course of a week you've banked some decent time toward your skill building. For language, work on a word a day for the entire week. You can practice once for a few minutes during the day, or a few short times each day. At the end of the week, switch words. Keep track and plan what word will comes next. With exercise or body based practices like yoga and dance, practice a pose every day for a week. Then switch. Now this will not create expertise right away, but will begin to give you a good base to start from. Then go back and revisit what feels uncertain, or once you work through a sequence, start all over again. The idea is to make it rote, create a ritual. This will open up your mind for ultimate receptivity. It's neuroscience.
2. One a Day. This approach works well for those who can dedicate more time each day to their practice. A familiar method in the arts in sketch a day, or a poem a day. A daily practice with something new each day is fun and fresh (that's how I have set up #thesethreethings) but it does require a larger chunk of concentrated time. This will either feel good to you or not. You'll know. Make adjustments from there.
3. The Long Haul. I LOOOOVE this approach. It is so freaking intentional and purpose driven it kind of makes me salivate. I wish I had the patience for it. The Long Haul requires practicing one thing a day for a very long stretch of time. Be it monthly or even yearly. I did this for an entire year with Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog in yoga. Every single day for a year. By the year's end, I did indeed improve, but of course the allure of yoga is that not matter the dedication, we are always green. So, there ya go. This concentration is great for people who love minutia and discipline. It works great with any skill and allows many layers of depth. Constant improvement in small ways over a long period of time is the name of the game here.
Skill Building Related Prompt
Name three experiences you have with working toward something. Maybe it worked out, maybe it didn't and you found your path by failure. Both informative. Think about why. Or don't. Just start. I'll begin.
1. When I was in high school I went to two schools. Regular high school during the day and three nights a week, I attended a classical fine arts school. We met for 3 hours a night and I was fortunate enough to take nude figure drawing, painting, and sculpture beginning at 15 years old. These classes saved my sanity in high school and provided me with a much needed escape from the everyday drama of suburban adolescence. I hardly spoke in the classes, took my work very seriously and poured myself into all the experience I could get there. There was a girl in my nude figure drawing class who would draw the most incredible figures in marker. If you know, then you know how amazing this is. To be able to do a 30 second figure study in marker. It's other worldly. I tried. Really, really tried to be able to do that. No matter how hard I practiced, I just couldn't get it. Not all the skill building in the world was going to help me see the figure in the same way she did. So, one day I stopped trying to be her.
I took a long hard look at my own work, study my strengths and leaned hard into what made my drawings unique. I still can't draw like that. But, I can draw like me.
2. I've had a rather circular relationship with all my endeavors. Started in fine art. Moved to psychotherapy, back to fine art, back to psychotherapy. I've often left one completely for the other. In fact this is the first time in my life I am doing both, combining both. I often wonder how that reads. Can I be taken seriously as a business consultant and be this lady that has this strange project, takes a lot of photos, and works in the fashion industry? Still waiting on the outcome of that. But both professions keep calling me back with interest. So I keep on skill building both. Looking for the crossover. Waiting on the results.
3. Art school is horrendously difficult. My BFA made my MS and licensing exams in psychology seem like a sleepwalk. No joke. When things get tough. When I doubt myself, I fall back on having finished my art degree. A math equation in my head. If you did that, you can do this. I'll never stop learning from those years. Ouch and hooray!
What did you learn today? Join me by using the #thesethreethings and commenting below with your own These Three Things. I want to hear what you are learning, laughing about, and living through.