Updated: Mar 2, 2020
I tell my kids more than they care to hear - practice. Practice your best handwriting on your homework. Practice sitting up straight. Practice good table manners even though we are just sitting at the dinner table with pizza. It is what we have all been told. Practice makes perfect, right? Well, practice at least helps lay the foundation for things to be better, maybe even their best. We aren't going for perfection. We are going for a better version of what we started with. And the only way to get there is practice.
Whatever we practice is what we end up getting really good at. That applies equally to the productive things we commit to each day as well as the destructive things we do. Drink water every day and before you know it, it is nearly a habit, thanks to your practice of keeping the water bottle at your desk. Skip the gym all week and practice learning more excuses for not going. See how it works? Practice those things that you want to keep and enhance. Stop doing the things that you want eliminated from your routine or vocabulary. Try practicing a few of these:
1. Practice positive self-talk. Self-criticism that fails to offer any sort of respect for what we are capable of and what we have already done to get where we are is so destructive to our well-being. It becomes a habit. Hating our looks, our actions, our circumstances, our life - stop. It offers us nothing and deeply hurts our outlook for change. Positive self-talk takes just as much time as negative, so if you can't say anything nice about yourself, don't say anything at all. Better yet, practice a mantra that honors who you are and grow from there. End the day with positive statements about your day and what you did to make it great. Get even better at thanking your mind and your body for what you do. Negativity only leads to more of the same so practice the opposite.
2. Practice using your words. I find far too often that I am sinking into a pattern of holding back how I feel, with my family, with people I work with, just because I don't know how to say something in the moment. And then it boils over and before I know I have a full-blown verbal attack ready in my head, and then that sits and festers. We tell our kids with great frequency to please use their words. We need to do the same. Practice using your words, not your silence, to make your point and release the tension. There are great ways to approach difficult conversations or say sensitive things. Practice them. Imagine how you would handle conversations gone wrong that you see on tv. You will never regret having the right words for diffusing a conflict or contributing to a discussion that is important.
3. Practice your instrument. Many of us played an instrument at some point in our lives. Some of us were force-marched to piano lessons weekly, hoping it would stick. Playing an instrument can be so therapeutic, and good for our aging little brains, too. Dust off those old music books and dive in. If your skills are too far gone, there are a variety of resources on the internet for starting again. And if you never played an instrument, it is never too late to start. Music might be its own reward, but increased mental agility, stress reduction, and personal satisfaction are also likely to follow. Practice an instrument and enjoy the benefits.
4. Practice self care. We are more able to tackle the world and all of its challenges when we are feeling good. Self care is enough sleep, nutritious food, exercise, mental downtime. For many it includes time with friends, working on a craft or hobby, spending time meditating. Self care is not selfish. It is our way of saying that we are important and deserve to have everything we need to make each day amazing. If we don't take care of ourselves, others are not going to step in and do it for us.
5. Practice persistence. Stop giving up before you have given yourself a fighting chance. Practice alternative ways to reach your goal. Try again. Try again times 10. And don't practice making excuses.
6. Practice resourcefulness. We have all been blessed with a very big brain filled with information and personal resources. Use it. Think through problems and solve them using your resources. They are there waiting to be put to good use. When we are stuck without enough money to purchase that perfect outfit we might forget that we can use something in our closet and our old sewing skills to craft it. Or we can bake our best friend a cake in exchange for her sewing acumen. Or we can borrow. Or trade. Or steal. Hold on - not so fast. But you get the idea. We have endless resources. Practice enjoying them.
7. Practice being kind. It can take much practice to remember that each person we encounter has feelings. Even those who are angry, aggressive, dismissive, and rude. There is a deficit of human kindness and the only way to increase it's presence is to practice it on others as much as possible. We won't always be treated in kind but we will be no worse for having decided to treat others with a kinder approach. Someone once said that we can choose to be anything in this world, so why not be kind. I couldn't agree more.
8. Practice introducing yourself. There is nothing worse than being unable to say anything about yourself, or worse, end up saying things about yourself that fail to highlight your awesomeness. And let's be clear - all of us are awesome. So figure out what makes you awesome and practice saying it, to yourself and others. Then when you are at that horrible social outing and you have an opportunity to say hello, you will shine.
9. Practice forgiveness. Nobody is perfect. Give them a break. Better yet, give yourself a break because you aren't perfect either. Forgive and move on. Forgive and leave room for the better things that will follow.
10. Practice owning it. You get to be you. It is an honor. You get to show up in this world however you want, wearing whatever you want, doing whatever you love. Don't apologize for that and never hide it. Own it. And allow those around you to stare in wonder or walk away. Be open to the simple truth that when you own it, others are left with no other choice. Take pride in what you do and who you are and leave the rest behind.