Tag Archive | Deliberate Practice

On discomfort

Be uncomfortable every day of your life. (David Goggins)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Embrace discomfort.”

“Derek Sivers calls information expressed as advice, directives. That is a vague directive. Which is not to say that it lacks value.

The most valuable information is that which has an actionable kernel.” 

“What is an actionable kernel?”

“It means an idea that can be put into action.

It can be an implicit kernel, like in your directive, or an explicit kernel

The implicit kernel needs to be identified [values sensitivity], extracted, and given actionable form. The explicit kernel can be put into action immediately.

Let us explore the actionable kernel in this instance. Let’s do it in the form of directives.

What does embracing discomfort mean?

We might say it means,

Cultivate a positive relationship with discomfort.

Still vague, but it suggests that it’s not just a one time thing, but an ongoing process.

We might say it means,

Practice discomfort.

To cultivate a positive relationship with discomfort, you need to practice it. There’s no other way. To increase efficiency, you need to deliberately practice it.

That means,

Move toward discomfort, rather than away from it.

Our natural tendency is to move away from discomfort. This suggests doing the exact opposite [inversion].

The key to the process is repetition and oscillation. The more often you do it, the greater the benefit, as long as every rep(etition) is followed by an appropriate recovery [stress/recovery oscillation]. Every rep that is followed by reflection is a learning cycle [<link; short read].

There’s two ways to get more reps in:

Seek out discomfort.

This means, when given two options, picking the more uncomfortable one.

Create discomfort. 

This means, creating opportunities to practice discomfort. They can be in the form of discomfort challenges.

There’s two kinds of discomfort: physical discomfort, and emotional discomfort. Well, technically both are physical discomfort, but the latter have a very specific signature. 

Dealing with physical discomfort does not transfer to dealing with emotional discomfort. 

In her book 90 Seconds to a Life You Love, Joan Rosenberg identified the most common uncomfortable emotions as being eight in number:

Anger
Sadness
Embarrassment
Shame
Vulnerability
Disappointment
Frustration
Helplessness

You can do push-ups and pull-ups in the thousands and not get a single step closer to dealing with vulnerability.

Each individual uncomfortable emotion is a practice in itself.

The practice in case of emotional discomfort is to

Fully experience discomfort.

Give it your full attention, lovingly and non-judgmentally, over and over and over and over and over again.

Like meditation.”

“Which of the eight feelings do you struggle with most?”

“Shame and vulnerability.”

Values as Deliberate Practice

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I deliberately practice my Values?”

“Let’s take Gratitude as an example.

Every time you express Gratitude for something, you’re practicing it. We might call this, one ‘Gratitude-rep[etition]’.

How many Gratitude-reps do you do during a day?

I call this, practice-density.

You might do it once at the end of the day. Certainly better than nothing. However the more reps you do during a day, the better. All these little reps add up.

How you do the reps is also important.

How many quality Gratitude-reps do you do during a day?

A low-quality rep is just going through the motions in order to get it done.

A quality rep is doing it slowly and reverently, like a ritual. You might even have a physical gesture, like the bowing in martial arts, or a stance.
A quality rep is fully experiencing the feeling of Gratitude in your body – a quality rep is embodied.

In a sense, every quality rep is a Meditation.

It’s also important to gain clarity on – design – the details of the practice. 

What specifically do you want to do?
What specifically do you want to think? Where do you want to direct your attention?

For instance, I think of everything I express Gratitude for as a Gift.

You might even have a theme that captures the essence of the practice.”

“What is the theme for your Gratitude practice?”

Take NOTHING for granted.

Gratitude Practice 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the highest end of the Gratitude practice?”

Taking NOTHING for granted.

This is a practice in itself.

By default, we tend to take everything for granted. To counter this tendency, it takes deliberate directing of the attention, by constantly asking yourself:

What am I taking for granted?

As they come into your Awareness, savor their simple Beauty, and express Loving Gratitude for all these Gifts.”

The Beautiful Practice 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

You can practice something in any waking moment.

“The challenge is remembering it.”

“Think of it as part of the practice. 

Ask yourself often:

What’s the practice?

In any moment, know what you’re practicing, whether it’s a value or a skill.

You can even say it to yourself.

eg
[I’m practicing…] 
– Presence, Love, Connection [Values]
– Questions-Thinking, Models-Thinking [Types of Thinking]
– Empty-Space, Inversion [Specific Principles/Models]
…”

“In any moment? Is that really possible?”

“It’s one of those things worth striving for, even if you may never achieve it.”

On Magic and Detachment

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“When playing Magic the Gathering, what’s the most challenging practice?”

“At first, it was keeping it under control. Playing only the amount of time I allocate for it, and playing only after finishing my work for the day, no earlier than 5pm. It was very challenging, but I succeeded. Considering how addictive the game is for me, this is a huge accomplishment.

The most challenging practice now is Detachment from the outcome. Maintaining Balance, by focusing on playing well (and on the beauty of the game) rather than on winning, and in the face of losing and winning.

As a side note, a beautiful thing about Magic is that it’s an environment that allows me to actually practice Detachment. Games in Magic are relatively short (10-20 minutes). I like to think of each game as a repetition (rep). Playing it every day, I get a lot of reps in.”

“How does losing and winning disturb your Balance?”

“There are many aspects that can influence the outcome of a game. The relative power-level of the decks, the skill of the players – which can be quantified by the quality of their decisions (decision-making) and the number of mistakes they make (focus) –, the cards they draw over the course of the game. Due to the random shuffling of the decks, every game of Magic is unique, every gameplay situation a unique puzzle. And, unlike jigsaw puzzles, Magic puzzles often have hidden information.

Magic is a game of decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. Your decisions and capacity to focus are the only things within your control, which do not guarantee victory. You will inevitably lose some games. But even though I understand these things, I have a tendency to forget after a game is over. 

After winning, I feel good, as if everything was under my control. There’s several cognitive biases at work here, among which Resulting, tendency to equate outcome-quality with decision-quality (it is possible to win even if I played poorly), and Hindsight Bias, tendency after an outcome is known to see it as inevitable.
After losing, I feel bad, perceiving it as a personal failure, as if everything was under my control.

Before a game, the practice lies in centering myself.
After a game, in letting go, reconnecting with the value of Humility, and asking myself:

Could I have played better?

Values as Practice

Fragment from imaginary dialogues

Values are a practice.

“I’d add one important detail:

Values are a mindful practice – which is to say, a deliberate practice.

One aspect of it is recognizing (and celebrating) opportunities to practice. Whenever you have the opportunity to embody a value, say, Humility, you can actually say to yourself ‘I’m practicing Humility‘, or simply ‘Humility‘. You’re thus actively using your values as guides.

Another aspect of it is creating opportunities to practice. This means asking yourself:

What’s the practice?
What specific things can you do to practice value x?

Let’s take Gratitude for instance. The practice might be saying to yourself ‘Take NOTHING for granted‘, saying ‘Thank you‘, and thinking of something or finding something around you that you’re grateful for. Or picking anything around you and finding something about it that you’re grateful for.

Or let’s take Love. The practice might be saying to yourself ‘I am Love‘, expressing love to the present, past and future versions of yourself [<link; medium length], and then sending love to the people you care for most. You might then even use Big Thinking [link; medium] to send love to all humanity.”

1-minute Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

The goal of the 1-minute meditation is to focus on your breath for one minute.

“What’s the benefit of meditating for just one minute?”

“A lot can happen in your mental-space in just one minute.

The 1-minute time-frame is deceptively small. When you use it to frame your meditation practice, time seems to dilate, in the same way putting your hand on a hot stove for a minute seems like an hour. I call it subjective-time. You can have a deep practice session in just one minute. 

And there are other benefits. It’s impossible not to find time for it. It makes it easier to get started. However one of the main benefits has to do with Deliberate Practice

You can string 1-minute micro-meditations one after another to form one continuous block – what I call modular-meditation [<link; medium read].

Let’s compare a 10-minute meditation with a modular-meditation consisting of 10 1-minute micro-meditations.

The essential unit of effective practice is the quality-rep(etition) – or, as I call it, the beautiful-rep. The more beautiful-reps you can get within a certain time-frame, the more effective the practice. Using the density [<link; medium read] model, we can say effective practice is denser.

During a 10-minute meditation, it is possible for your mind to wander most of the time. That’s a low density practice.

The 1-minute micro-meditations structure your practice. You can think of them as checkpoints, which bring your wandering mind back, ensuring a higher density practice.

You can think of each 1-minute block as a bigger rep – 1-minute-reps. What the 1-minute-reps offer is fast feedback. Once a minute passes, you immediately know if it was a quality-rep or not.” 

“A quality 1-minute-rep is one in which your mind did not wander?”

“Yes. 

You can even count them, just like you might do with breaths.

Another approach I use is to aim for just one quality 1-minute-rep. Once you get it, you’re done. If you don’t get, add another one, and another one, until you do get it.”

On Presence and Meditation 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I practice Presence?”

“The goal is for it to become a habit.

Use James Clear’s four rules as a guide.

Make it obvious. (Cue)
Make it attractive. (Craving)
Make it easy. (Response)
Make it satisfying. (Reward)”

“How can I make it easy?”

“As we’ve talked before [<link; medium read], the Meditation practice is the fundamental unit of the Presence practice. Thinking of the Presence practice in terms of rep(etition)s, it consists of ‘meditation-reps‘, and every meditation-rep consists of what I called ‘attentional-reps‘.

Let’s turn our attention to Meditation.

There’s two ways you can structure it:

By focusing on time. eg ‘Meditate for 5 minutes.’ 

By focusing on breaths. eg ‘Meditate for 5 breaths.'”

“How about focusing on activity? Performing an activity as meditation.
eg ‘eating-meditation’, or ‘dish-washing-meditation’, or ‘shower-meditation’.”

“The idea of making it easy is to make it too small to fail, to ensure consistency of practice. To do that, you need scalable structures, structures of adjustable length. You need to be able to identify the smallest possible unit – the ‘atom‘, so to speak. 

The atom of the Meditation practice is 1 breath. I call it the 1-breath meditation.

Not only is it doable anywhere at any time, but it also incorporates the breath into the practice, which is a powerful tool on its own.”

“By why focus on time at all, and not just on breaths?”

“There’s a Buddhist meditation practice – which I know from Mark Divine’s book Unbeatable Mind – of counting to 10 breaths. Whenever you notice your attention has wandered, you start back from zero.

There’s two principles at work here: mindful breaths, and counting breaths. We could call mindful breaths quality reps. These are the only ones worth counting.

I find counting breaths very useful, because it’s a way to assess how well you’re doing, which allows you to practice more deliberately. Ideally, count using your fingers, not mentally.

As long as you’re counting breaths, focusing on time works just as well.

There’s three ways you can go about it.

You can count to a set number. Meditate for x breaths. This can take a long or short time, based on the chosen number, and how well you’re doing.

You can count to a set time. Meditate for y minutes. Get as many mindful reps in as you can in that time-frame. It can be 5 minutes (5-minute meditation), it can even be just 1 minute (1-minute meditation).

You can count to a set number and a set time. Meditate for x breaths or y minutes, whichever comes first.

Beautiful Models: Contextual-Priming

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is Contextual-Priming?”

“I regard Priming as a practical art/game [<link; short read].

Priming is a means of activating your resources.”

“So a means of turning passive-knowledge into active-knowledge [<link; medium read]?”

“Precisely.

Contextual-Priming means deliberately and strategically activating specific resources – eg linguistic-tools – for a specific context.”

“So a kind of preparation.”

“Yes.

It could be for dealing with an anticipated problem.
It could be for a training session.

To make the process more efficient, it’s essential that you organize your resources.

One way to do that is by creating tool-sets – or mini-decks [<link; medium read], to use a different model. That is, making small selections of tools for specific situations. The best tool-sets are the ones that cover the widest variety of situations.

This is something you can play and experiment with.

Let’s say a particular set of linguistic-tools is the best way of dealing with a certain life-situation. Anticipating the situation, you bring to mind the tools ahead of time – you contextually-prime yourself – such that when the situation presents itself, the tools are more readily available.”

Reclaiming verbal empties

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Thank you.”

“Do you actually feel Gratitude (substantial), or just going through the motions (formal)?”

“I guess I was kind of going through the motions.”

“We sometimes utter words without connecting with their meaning. I call such instances verbal empties.

One component of Artful Living is the reclaiming of verbal empties.

Saying ‘thank you’ is a beautiful opportunity to practice Gratitude.

Saying ‘I love x’ is a beautiful opportunity to connect with the universe of Love.