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Happiness Tip: Practice Deliberately

As the kids get back into their school routines, I’m thinking about what really leads to success—as well as happiness. When we look at people who are at the top of their field, what do we know about how they got there?

Turns out, we know a lot. (I’ve pieced together a new theory of elite performance in this post, if you’re interested.) The key take-away is that elite performers practice a lot, in a really specific way. Accomplished people spend hours upon hours in strategic, deliberate practice. This isn’t just poking around on the piano because it is fun; it is consistently practicing to reach specific objectives—say, to be able to play a new piece that is just beyond their reach. In the beginning, masters may practice a new phrase or even a single measure again and again and again.

What does this have to do with happiness, you’re wondering? A lot, because deliberate practice, especially if you’re passionate about whatever it is you’re practicing, leads to mastery. And mastery is a cornerstone for selfworth, self-efficacy and satisfaction with life.

Take Action: Schedule a time every single day (preferably at the same time) to practice something you really want to get better at. Measure your progress, and get coaching if you find you aren’t improving–you may need a better practice strategy.

Join the Discussion:  What have you observed on your path to mastery? Have you noticed that practice had a lot to do with it? Share your experience in the comments.

Feature image by Bunches and Bits.


  1. Mary M says:

    For me this applies to spiritual practice–daily, always going deeper, practicing what I believe, joining with like-minded people to keep me on track.

  2. Jeffrey McFadden says:

    One could purchase the book “The Talent Code,” by Daniel Coyle. Or maybe not, since the entire point of the book is contained in this brief post.
    It’s still an interesting book and does cover some of the “why and how” of this truth.

  3. JB says:

    I started doing Lumosity (brain training) every day. I’m truly amazed that my scores keep getting higher. It’s amazing how ‘automatic’ the eye-hand coordination becomes, how much better my memory is for small details, and how much better my concentration is. Now, having said that I’m trying to learn French as well and my self discipline is a shadow of what it could be…and my lack of progress is testimony to the lack of sustained effort and discipline!

  4. Justine Playford says:

    I love that idea. We recently replaced the word “homework” with the word ‘practice’.
    It really shifts their perspective and it is presented as an opportunity rather than a chore. My 6 and 7 year olds have a lot to master and at that age it can be overwhelming. Small steps will get them there in a big happy way.

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