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Use Deliberate Practice to Reach Your Goals Faster




Almost 40 years ago, a young Japanese music teacher, Kazuko Eguchi, frustrated by her own lack of perfect music pitch developed an early learning program, the Eguchi Chord Instruction Method. She developed a method to help young students attain perfect pitch.


People with perfect pitch can recognize music notes by ear without seeing someone play the notes on a musical instrument. Perfect pitch is so rare that only 1 in every 10,000 people have this ability and most people believe that you are either born with this ability or not.


Mozart, Beethoven, Maria Carey, Jimi Hendrix and Yanni are a few musicians who have perfect pitch. Since unveiling her perfect pitch method, thousands of young Japanese children have been able to successfully develop the ability to recognize notes by ear.


In 2012, researcher, Ayako Sakakibara, published a study of 24 young children using Eguchi’s chord instruction method. Twenty-two children completed the study, and all achieved perfect pitch. The study demonstrated perfect pitch can be developed with the right exposure and training and is not just a special talent of a few lucky people. The Eguchi method uses short frequent focused training sessions.


What does all of this have to do with achieving our goals? One of the lessons learned from the perfect pitch study is that we are not limited in what we want to learn or achieve, but more important is how we approach our goals. The children at Eguchi’s school did not approach learning in a haphazard way but underwent a system of deliberate practice to acquire the ability of perfect pitch.


According to Anders Ericsson, the leading researcher on expertise, experts in many fields develop their high-level abilities through dedicated training, (deliberate practice), that drives changes in the brain and body to achieve very high levels in their sport or skill.


Deliberate practice involves breaking a skill down into parts or chunks and using focused practice, immediate feedback and increasingly challenging levels with the intention of mastering the skill. The take-away for us is that when pursuing goals, we should work on individual skills, be purposeful in our practice, have a coach or some feedback mechanism to correct us in the moment and constantly challenge ourselves to achieve the highest possible level with our goals.


Here are a few tips to help with deliberate practice:


1. Maintain your motivation – Learning new skills can be hard. Practicing a complex skill when you have hit a plateau, are frustrated or feel like you are failing takes persistence. Motivation can help you push past the hard times.


2. Find new ways to work around a plateau like going faster than you are able and allow yourself to make mistakes. You can also limit or change the variables you are practicing. For example, if your fitness progress is stalling, try different exercises or change the rest periods between sets. Hire a personal trainer to help you. Maintain motivation by removing distractions that could pull you away from your practice such as checking emails.


3. Build habits that help you maintain your deliberate practice schedule.


4. Reward yourself for improvements in performance


5. Join a group of people working on a similar goal to maintain motivation.


6. Set goals that are specific and realistic – The more specific your goals, the easier it will be to measure progress. Break goals down into small achievable goals. Make your goal specific enough that you can easily determine if you are making progress.


7. Move past your comfort zone – Change and progress only come when we push past the comfortable. Practice at the point just beyond your current capabilities. Go back and forth between what you are capable of and what feels uncomfortable.


8. Practice consistently and with persistence – Consistent focused practice over a long time produces results. Eliminate distractions when you practice and push through the tough times. Continue to work towards your goal even during times of frustration and failure.


9. Obtain feedback – Having a coach give you immediate feedback will help correct mistakes and identify areas where you can improve.


10. Follow practice with time to recover – Focused deliberate practice is intense and requires time to recover. To avoid physical and mental fatigue, build in time to relax and recover after training sessions.


Use these tips to help you improve your fitness and health skills and reach your goals.


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