I have recently been speaking about how success is a very internal concept, which does not just happen. It is a combination of forces and ultimately calls for work, effort, commitment, and a fair bit of reframing for how we define it and make sense of it.
Whether we want a successful career, external praise, and admiration, or something entirely different in our lives, none of it manifests as if by magic. It does not just happen to us, so wait around without effort, and it finds us. Quite the contrary!
Prioritize What We Can
Don't get me wrong; life does have a fair bit of chance. We cannot control many things in our lives, though we can do the best with what we have to ensure what is in our power will move us toward achieving what we intend. I often coach my clients to prioritize and plan their day the night before or first thing in the morning to ensure that the most important things we intend to do get done.
This self-prioritization is our effort and becomes especially powerful when remaining focused and not allowing distractions to disturb us. It is easy to get distracted with social media, recurring anxieties, or shiny object syndrome, and there are strategies to manage or work through each of these. These are what we intentionally do that thwart our well-intentioned goals when we get in our own way.
However, there are many times when things external get in the way of our realizing our plans. These things happen to us, those things that we cannot have planned for yet require our attention. Think when your boss invites you last-minute onto an interview committee for an open position you did not know was in your sphere of influence, scheduled for this morning.
Perhaps you notice a small leak under the sink, or unexpected snow flurries continue to the point when they need to be shoveled, or you won't get your mail delivered. Perhaps you had the best of plans for the day, but your stomach does not agree with you, or one of your family members needs care-giving.
Our plans usually occur with the expectation, or at least hope, that the external environment does not shift too much. We can only do what is within our own power.
Recognize Our Control Points
Many things happen to us that demand our attention, regardless of what we initially planned on our own. These are the things that readily derail our success, and even the most disciplined person can be forgiven for attending to those things that demand attention through no fault of their own.
We can control ourselves, or we can, at least in theory, though we are powerless about things beyond our reach. Given this, how can we reach success when there are so many variables?
This is the value of practice, repeatedly practicing as that is all we can do while striving toward success.
It has been said there are few things we actually can control, such as our breathing, our self-talk, and our internal dreams. Most things are part of infinitely layered networks of activities, something the theorist in me will refer to as actor-network theory. Suffice it to say that we often act as if we have a lot more power than we do, or the power we have has more mitigating forces we like to acknowledge.
When we strive for success, in whatever way we may define it, the one thing that is most certain about it is that we can improve with practice. Practicing is something we tend to forget about once out of school, as practice-practice-practice is nearly the mantra we live with in our K-12 or even college experiences. It is as if once we graduate, we no longer need to practice as we are at the pinnacles of our success.
That is nonsense, of course, though it is helpful to consider some of the implications of practice in our lives.
3 Lifelong Benefits of Practice
When we are young, we are told maxims, such as "Practice makes perfect" or "Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice." They are intended to inspire us and make us want to grow and develop. We are often not told that we will not build discipline or habits without do and repeat, i.e., practice.
There are three lifelong benefits for adults who heed this call to practice when facing something new, and these are vital points to lifelong success in our endeavors.
1. Practice Builds Discipline
Whenever we want to develop some new skill or improve upon the ones we already have, it will not occur without practice. The act of intentionally repeating things to perform better and improve is a level of discipline that is a hallmark of successful people.
Whether it is a physical, mental, or emotional discipline, few people master them without ongoing practice. Wearing my education or coaching hat, this is called personal improvement, and this comes only with the price of practicing whatever change we want to make.
2. Practice Reinforces Commitment
Few people get up early each morning to begin the day with their morning routines as a bedrock of overall health without the help of an alarm. This use of an alarm, something consciously set the night before, speaks personal commitment even before awakening.
The practice of setting the alarm is a tangible action to support the commitment to begin each day intentionally. This simple practice is used to prepare for the real plan, a morning routine of working out, meditation, writing, reading, or the like. We know this is fully internalized when the alarm is set, and we get it as we know it will help our day.
3. Practice Empowers Us
When we practice anything for self-improvement, we take immediate steps to empower us to be better in some way. This empowerment is not something other people make us do or insist upon. It is instead something we do for ourselves, knowing that nobody can genuinely empower ourselves and set us on the path to greatness besides ourselves.
This is very different from when we are young, and nobody knows our potential. As adults, our potential is something worthy of our empowerment and transformation into a beautiful place.
Next Steps for YOUR Practice
As practice in adulthood is so different from practicing things as children, we need to decide and take the initiative to practice whatever we want to improve upon.
Given this, what will you choose to practice and how to believe that will help you improve? After all, in this regard, success is really up to you!