Two of the most common assumptions I hear about practice are 1) that effective practice means lots of repetitions, and 2) that effective practice means avoiding errors. Unfortunately, by following these two assumptions, we can actually make ourselves worse and get seriously injured.
Plenty of research (e.g., Ericcson et al.,1993) shows that, aside from requiring the high level of alertness and focus I talked about in a previous post, repetitions also need to be goal-oriented and highly strategic for them to be effective. I recommend using the Strategic Practice and/or Deliberate Practice methods that I discussed in a previous post.
Research also suggests an average upper and lower limit for how many (mindful) repetitions result in significant improvement. The ideal amount of repetitions seems to be the smallest amount which results in roughly 85%, correct and 15% incorrect repetitions. For example, if you make 1 mistake you need to follow it up with roughly 6 to 7 correct repetitions.
The assumption that practice means avoiding errors not only prevents us from improving effectively but can also lead us down the impossible and anxiety-provoking path of perfection! 😰
The reality, according to science, is that errors, when corrected mindfully and immediately, are the keys to improvement and to the neuroplastic changes that will allow us to learn faster. Think of errors like short riddles that, when solved, act like clues to help us decode a larger mystery.
Frustration Frustration is also extremely important for learning. When we feel frustrated during a learning task, according to science, our brain releases neurochemicals that help us become more alert, focused, and tell the brain that something needs to change right away. According to neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman, instead of giving up, we can accelerate learning by doing several more repetitions right when we begin feeling frustrated.
Remind yourself that you will, and should make errors in practice. Once identified, correct them strategically and mindfully right away.
Remember that the more errors you identify and solve, the closer you will be to success.
Keep your repetition ratio around 15% incorrect to 85% correct and keep your total amount of reps. low.
Do several more repetitions as soon as you feel frustrated to help your brain solidify your corrections.
And of course, always be highly focused and alert when practicing.
Please let me know in the comments (at the bottom of the page here) if you found these strategies helpful.
And if you’re interested in lessons, please contact me below as well. Thanks and happy practicing!