The Power of Positive Practice

Now and then I receive a call from a client who is in shock from the abusive power play of a spouse or boss. A typical call came in a couple weeks ago from a man with an urgent need to be validated and reassured after yet another crazy making interaction with his department head.

I was able to provide some reassurance, and I gave this man advice on how to manage his interactions with his boss in ways that would respect her, but also invite her to respect him. I gave him several practical things to do which I consider proven to help a person be less affected by the petty tyrant in their life.

“OK, ok, ok,” was his response. In a follow up call, I asked if he had practiced those tips and he wasn’t sure what I was talking about. I jogged his memory and he remembered that he had practiced those tips for a week or so, until the crisis passed, and then forgot about them.

Practicing a new skill enough to pass an exam or weather a crisis is good. But if you really want to change your experience, you must practice it until you are competent without consciously thinking about it; much the way you probably drive a car.

The idea of trudging through practicing something new is not very sexy compared to the notion of getting instant results. I love quick, easy and efficient ways of doing things. I recently began learning Theta Healing, for example, because it seems to improve my feeling state very, very quickly. I use other techniques like NLP and energy management for the same reason. But the truth is I haven’t found any new skills whose mastery doesn’t require some plain old practice.

This client had experienced thirty years of emotional abuse and thirty days of being in a different state that would encourage respect.  Without practicing, the knee jerk reactions of thirty years would overcome the new unaccustomed behavior or thirty days.

I encountered this myself recently, when I couldn’t get past some old emotional reactions that no longer serve me. When I examined my life, I saw that I practiced feeling better and acting more deliberately just until I got past the current crisis, then I went back to my old, comfortable (but ineffective) way of being.

I am making a concerted effort now, to practice, practice, practice, every single day, until I achieve unconscious competence with the new feelings and behaviors. Is it fun? Well, not especially.

Is it working? Yes, indeed, it is!

Remember the visitor to New York City who stopped a man on the street to ask, “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?” The man replied, “Practice, practice, practice!”

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