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Overcoming the Everyday—Deliberately

31 Jul

How to Keep Your Career Energized and Moving in the Right Direction

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Business People Meeting Discussion Working Office Concept
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Every day, we’re each presented with a sequence of opportunities in our working lives. The decisions we make in the office—from the way we approach our peers to how we handle a project crisis—allow us to drive our careers in the direction of our choosing. Even then, it’s easy to fall into routines that allow us to slip into mediocre (or, even worse, bad) habits.

To help you keep your career as invigorated and inspired as possible—and to avoid slipping into what’s comfortable and easy—we’ve outlined a few key elements of Anders Ericsson’s “deliberate practice” theory below, so you can better utilize this concept in your daily life.1

What Is Deliberate Practice?

For those who aren’t familiar with his work, Anders Ericsson is a professor of psychology at Florida State University, whose research on peak performance and gaining expertise has received critical acclaim.1 Usually applied to athletes, artists, scholars, and similar “outside-of-the-norm” pursuits, his work explores the ways people can achieve greatness overall and in their respective fields.

However, the concept of deliberate practice is apt for all professionals seeking to perform at their personal highest level—from salespeople and marketers to human resources representatives and entrepreneurs.

Essentially, deliberate practice is a focused effort to increase expertise in a given area through practice that pushes one outside of their comfort zone, which often requires a mentor who can monitor their growth and suggest ways to excel.2

The theory is simple, yet its potential outcomes can be monumental.

How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Use our suggestions below to help guide you as you start to step outside of your comfort zone and integrate deliberate practice into your life:2

Slow down.

Working faster doesn’t mean you’re producing better quality work. In fact, it often leads to careless mistakes. Slow your pace down to give yourself more control of your work, so you can ensure what you do is valuable.

Put it on paper.

According to recent studies, you are 42 percent more likely to achieve the goals that you actually write down.3 This means writing down your goals the old fashioned way—with pen and paper, by hand—helps actualize your intentions. If you commute to work on the bus or train, consider making your “to do” list on your way to work, so you’re focused and ready to go when you arrive.

Ask for feedback.

This is where the mentorship aspect comes into play. Your mentor should be someone who you respect and admire and whose honest feedback you value and can rely on. A great mentor can help you evaluate your performance, provide suggestions on how you can improve, and help measure your progress.

Find your weakness.

What is it that’s standing in your way and keeping you from achieving your goals? What feedback have you been told over and over again? Once you’ve identified your biggest weakness, you can work toward strengthening your performance in these areas, so it becomes less of a roadblock to your success. With time and your mentor’s patience, you can start to catch these mistakes yourself.

Keep doing what you’re doing.

The difference between meaningless repetition and deliberate practice is that you’re deliberately adjusting your actions to consistently improve your performance. Find your flaws and keep them in mind as you move forward. That’s the key to reaching your end goal: gradually making yourself improve everything you do by maintaining a personal awareness.

How Can It Benefit My Career?

For professionals, the ability to expand their expertise through articulated guidelines is an opportunity that could affect careers, companies, and consumers for the better. Many professionals have the desire to be great at what they do.

However, expertise and greatness can seem like arcane and abstract concepts without a tangible set of steps to achieve them. This is the true value of deliberate practice for your career: By outlining the behavior and mentality needed to be great, deliberate practice forces you to step outside of what’s normal or routine in your work life and try something new.

Many of us don’t necessarily attach words like “greatness” to our work life; but why not? Why not seek to be truly great at your job?

Whether or not you feel that Ericsson’s method of deliberate practice is right for you, pushing yourself past your normal limits and trying out new tactics can help you discover and develop a new perspective on your work life. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is never an easy feat, but remember, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Take the time you need to consider how deliberate practice might fit into your life and how it could impact your career.

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