Imagine how we could perform in art, sport and career if the idea of practicing was a turn on.
Practice is the consistent engagement with actions and behaviours that confer “expert ease” at something. Practice, at least deliberate practice, increases our capacities to perform at whatever we’re practicing for. Yet most of us find it difficult to sustain practices that would help us be healthier, wealthier and happier.
The idea of practice for us is not sexy.
What makes something sexy?
Answer: Three ‘sexy conditions” (1) Anticipation and experience of immediate gratification, (2) positive sensory feedback, (3) positive association with a desired future outcome.
For some dessert is sexy, for others it’s shoes and for me technology—particularly Apple products—is my turn-on.
For me, Apple products are like a family of Kardashians all with varying degrees of hotness, and it seems there’s one for every taste. I ‘undress’ my new Apple products. I see their pictures and read about them in magazines, social media and on their website and I sometimes see other people with one and I get excited. I want to take one home because they are sexy—to me.
All three of the sexy conditions are there for me with Apple products. So could it be with practice.
Three things that make practice unsexy
There are three things that cause practice to seem like spending time with a sweaty, balding, fat guy who is really into you. They are:
1. Not being passionate about the purpose
If you’re not connected to why you’re practicing something, practicing certainly won’t be a turn on. Think of the kid whose mom forces him to take piano lessons. Playing piano means something to his mom but not to him.
My next Macbook pro is sexy to me because it allows me to become better at so many things that I am passionate about: reading, writing, exploring, learning, communicating etc. My mac represents possibility.
If I didn’t value these things, there’s no way that a mac would be sexy to me.
Get connected to why
So the first step in making practice sexy is getting connected to your reason for practicing.
- Does it really matter to you?
- Do you care about it?
- Does it fire you up for reasons you can’t explain?
If none of these apply then there’s no way you can make practice sexy.
2. Cost to practice high
It could also be that there are structural hurdles to begin practicing that make it difficult.
James Clear talks about activation energy as the energy required to begin something. and it could simply be that your practice requires too much ignition effort or maybe it incurs unpleasant consequences.
Think of setup cost and collateral costs.
The set up cost might be just dealing with the travel time and traffic to get to practice, and collateral costs might be having to encounter some unpleasant people who go to the same gym.
Finding some way to reduce or eliminate these costs could transform your experience of practice.
3. Poorly designed practice
It could also be that your practice is not designed well for you or has become stale.
You could be doing exercises that are too hard or too easy, or you could be doing exercises that just don’t work for you.
The solution here is to not only redesign your practice, but redesign it often. As a species we get bored easily, even with sexy partners, and we need to do things to spice things up.
A coach could help you design and redesign your practice so it becomes and stays sexy.
Practice as metaphor
Lastly, if the thought of practice still doesn’t do it for you, then consider practice as metaphor for the ugly best friend of the sexy gal or guy you’re really after. You’ve got to be on good terms with the ugly best friend otherwise you’ll have no chance of getting that guy or gal. Don’t be surprised though, if the metaphor holds true to life and you find that the ugly friend is the real deal and the sexy friend is only packaging. You could learn to enjoy practice for its own sake.