Sue was contemplating how much we crave instant gratification these days above the long hard slog of ‘practice makes perfect’.
When I was a young child, I was fortunate enough to be offered the chance to learn to read music and play an instrument; both the piano and the flute actually. I’m not sure at the time if I thought I was lucky, I seem to recall the sheer dread of regular practice; of repeatedly playing the same tunes over and over again to learn both how to play the instrument correctly and how to read music.
As an adult, I look back fondly on those times and feel privileged that I can still play both instruments (albeit exceptionally badly!) and read music. Even though I may never read a piece of music for years at a time, as soon as I see a page of notes, my brain immediately and instinctively knows exactly what notes they are and works out the tune in my head. The memory part of my brain, however much I let it lax, still remembers. The practice week after week, year after year has imprinted and hard wired the skill into my brain.
As a young adult, I employed the same ‘practice makes perfect’ strategy while learning to drive. I again found the whole process stressful and disliked the driving lessons intently, but I persevered as I knew the end results would give me more freedom and independence to travel. I enjoy driving now and find the process completely automatic, but I don’t think I’m perfect at driving. What is perfect? Maybe the phrase should be ‘practice makes better’.
As an older adult I’m now addicted to the instant gratification of my smartphone and the immediate responses I can achieve on that; social media, music, games and immediate google answers to my nonsensical questions! Yet the instant gratification with the apps on my smartphone fades quickly; their value is limited and I crave new apps, new games to play, new music, new social media posts, etc. My boredom threshold is quite low. This instant need for gratification, however small the value, can be seen in other aspects of my life from only cooking food that takes 30 minutes or less to prepare, to challenging myself to read books for more than 10 minutes at a time… a pleasure I used to immerse myself in for hours and hours when I was younger.
On the other hand, the sheer idea of having to learn something new, which I can only improve with practice, fills me with despair, even though I know the value will be significantly longer lasting and I’ll hopefully retain the ability for quite a while. The DIY skills I picked up over the years, learning from other people, could do with a concerted effort; a focus on regular practice to hone them, to give me greater expertise.
Why, when I know that my ‘practice makes better’ strategy will add much greater value to my life, don’t I intuitively follow it? I need to train my brain better, to work out my brain muscle more. I’m aware of what I need to do, I just need to practise it more!
How do you learn new stuff?