“Practice makes perfect”
You know, I’ve always disliked that saying. What is perfection anyway? Who defines it, and is it even attainable or realistic?
I agree that practice makes our habits stronger. Through practice, our ability in that practice grows slowly and we attain a certain level of skill, or perfection, or success. But I still don’t like any of these words.
What does practice make then?
I once heard a quote saying “Greatness is lots of small things done right”.
Now, this is getting closer, but the word greatness has so much attached to it.
See the thing I don’t like about all these terms is that they are too deeply rooted within our ego.
So let’s remove it from the equation entirely. Let’s stop trying to figure out what practice makes us. Let us simply say:
“Practice makes us.”
Regardless of whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly practicing. We build habits, and those habits become stronger. Physically or mentally or emotionally, we hone these habits through practice, for better or for worse.
In order to truly be healthy, we need to look at all those small things and whether or not we are doing them right. Because those small things will make up who we are.
There are four basic stages to these habits that make us into what is so uniquely “us”. I will compare these stages to riding a bicycle to help illustrate the concept more clearly.
1 – Unconscious Ignorance – We don’t know riding a bike is even a thing, and we don’t know how to do it.
2 – Conscious Ignorance – We realize that it is possible to ride a bike, usually because it was pointed out to us somehow. Now we are aware but we have no idea how to do actually ride a bike.
3 – Conscious Competence – We practice, and practice, and practice, getting better and better at cycling. Our competence has a direct correlation to the amount of effort and intention we put in.
4 – Unconscious Competence – Riding a bike is like tying your shoelace, or reading. You have done it so many times that is just a part of who you are. You don’t even need to think about it. You can bicycle seemingly effortlessly.
There comes a great power in knowing this is how practice works. Many of us have countless things that are in stage 1. We are completely oblivious to how to deactivate an orbiting satellite, nor have we even considered the need to know how. This is a ridiculous example, but there are so many practical things that we are unaware of that we really should be aware of, because they affect our very health. Ayurveda can get you to that second stage to make you aware and then it’s a quick jump to stage 3, where you practice. It takes a long time to reach stage four, but so many of us do so many things for our health every day that we don’t think twice about. Those things however, were at one point difficult for us, like learning to walk, brushing our teeth, and even potty training! Remember, Ayurveda is the knowledge of life. Your lifestyle does matter!
Now consider the flip side of practice – you decide instead of exercising today that you’re going to sit at the computer or television. You start to do it day in and day out. You hone your skill of unhealthiness. Rather than those distractions being a blip in an otherwise healthy lifestyle, now the lifestyle is unhealthy and healthy actions become the blips.
One could even say that you are practicing unhealthiness.
And trust me, you will have become exceedingly efficient at it.
I don’t say this to instill guilt in anyone. I say it because it is the truth. But keep in mind we live in a society that does not set us up for success. Everything is go go go…at the cost of our health. It can be a real challenge to realize one’s health is a consequence of their daily practices, and an even bigger challenge to change.
But not all is lost. Ayurveda can help. It’s not important to change everything all at once. Starting small is how unhealthy practices grow. Would it not stand to reason that starting small will grow your healthy practices as well?
Again, do lots of small things right.
Practice makes us. Full stop.