Could I be the next Petra Kvitova?

Have you escaped from the shackles of ‘should’ yet? Have you established that your goal is really yours and not the result of someone else’s opinion?

How much does success in achieving a goal depend on natural talent? Many of us think that the great were born that way: if we weren’t, we’d better leave greatness to others. Is that really the case? Was Richard Branson born an entrepreneur? Was Churchill born an orator? Was Rebecca Adlington born an Olympic swimmer?

Research shows that success is not simply a result of innate talent. Hard work and years of practice are crucial. It seems though that many of us learn quickly at first, slow down and then our development seems to grind to a halt. We can probably all think of someone who bucks that trend though: someone who seems to have an insatiable desire to know more, to do more, to be more. They are some of the most interesting people we meet.

When Wimbledon rolls around (or ‘bounces in’) each June, I notice more people out there playing tennis. It seems we are inspired to dust off our racquets and whack a few balls up and down the courts. Practice makes perfect, we think, but is that really true? Just hitting balls over the net isn’t going to turn me into Petra Kvitova.

There is a concept called ‘deliberate practice’. Rather than simply hitting balls and hoping to keep them in play, I need to have a goal for my practice: perhaps I’ll set out with 100 tennis balls and aim to land them within 0.5m of the baseline 80% of the time. I’ll observe and record my results, make adjustments and practice for hours a day. That’s deliberate practice.

As an amateur, hitting some balls around the tennis court might just be for my amusement and a bit of exercise. A practice session for a professional will involve their focus and concentration and have improvement in performance as its goal. Same game of tennis; different frame of mind.

We can set out to achieve this in our work as well. Rather than just get through the task ahead of me and strike it off my list, I can aim to get better at it. I’ve been writing a best practice document recently: that’s involved seeking out information, reviewing it, drafting, re-writing, presenting it.

Each one of these gives me the opportunity to practice and to do it better than I’ve done it before. Going into the project with this mindset has given me the opportunity to think more deeply about what I’m doing which in turn seems to help me retain the learning and the information. I’ve sought feedback from multiple sources to give me fresh perspectives which I believe will improve the finished article.

How about you?

Today’s pebble for you to turn over in your mind:

Is there an area of your work or life which would benefit from some ‘deliberate practice’?

I’d love to hear from you,

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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