One of the largest myths in personal development and the pursuit of peak performance is if you just keep working hard enough and long enough you’ll get there. However, the research around peak performance disputes this assertion. In fact, the data show you may actually get worse over time.
It’s not just about putting in the hours that lead to becoming elite; it’s what you do during this time period that determines whether you will achieve your full potential. To become a peak performer requires following the principles of what is referred to as deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice requires obtaining a coach or mentor who is knowledgeable about what the elite do to become that way. It entails pursuing an activity in a field that has accumulated a large body of knowledge about what it takes to develop expertise in that particular endeavor.
This coach or mentor also needs to be skilled at teaching this information. Some individuals have accumulated a large degree of knowledge but are not great at imparting this experience to others. A great teacher needs to be adept in both of these areas. Moreover, your selection of a specific coach needs to be based on objective criteria, not reputation, charisma, or hype.
The Most Renowned Are Not Always The Best
We can all fall victim to someone’s level of fame or status. Research shows that in many industries, individuals who are very renowned are not actually the top performers. Don’t be fooled by marketing and publicity.
Once you have identified and obtained the right coach for yourself, the main characteristics of deliberate practice are as follows:
The wrong type of practice will leaving you worse off than before you started.
- Developing clear, specific goals
- Receiving immediate feedback
- Having deep focus on the activity
- Challenging yourself to go just beyond your current level of skill
The Goals of Deliberate Practice
The goal of deliberate practice is to create changes in your brain and body that generate abilities you do not presently possess and to develop more complex mental representations.
Mental representations are a collection of images and patterns of a particular activity. Think chess, music, or mathematics. A Grand Master Chess Player sees patterns at a level of complexity way beyond what you and I can comprehend. The same holds true with a master musician or accomplished mathematician.
Adhering to the principles of deliberate practice is the defining factor in what creates greatness and peak performance.
Having more complex mental representations also guides and facilitates more productive practice sessions. When you know what the goal should be, you are able to track more immediately whether you are hitting the mark. There is then a reciprocal nature between enhancing practice and performance: More effective practice times lead to an increased level of performance; and greater levels of performance allow for more complex mental representations, which then translates to more efficient practice.
Deliberate Practice is the key
After over three decades of research, Anders Ericcson in his book, Peak: The New Science of Expertise, has shown adhering to the principles of deliberate practice is the defining factor in what creates greatness and peak performance.
To join the ranks of these exceptional individuals, follow this formula: obtain the right coach or mentor, observe the tenants of deliberate practice, and put in the hours. Yes. You can become elite if you work hard enough, long enough, and engage in deliberate practice.
7 Traits of Deliberate Practice
Discover the unique practice strategies used by the very elite in virtually every field of work. Implement these into your routine and you'll quickly find yourself at the top.