Episode 77 of Landscape Digital Show reveals how to reach any goal with deliberate practice that becomes self-teaching and coaching.


How to Reach Any Goal with Deliberate Practice

In her bestselling book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, psychologist and professor Angela Duckworth provides evidence that more than talent and skill, it’s gritty, deliberate practice that predictably leads to the accomplishment of goals.

For this to happen, she cites four conditions that must be met.

#1. A stretch goal
#2. Concentration and effort
#3. Immediate feedback
#4. Repetition, reflection, and refinement

My personal experience training months for a marathon backs this up and clarifies grit to be a blend of physical and mental practice.

While I have once previously completed a marathon, that was over 30 years ago. Nevertheless, my results from my current marathon training have been surprising, even to me, and I believe the method can be replicated to reach any goal.

Assuming you are committed to your goal and are consistently doing the work, you are already fulfilling most of the conditions that define grit. You only need a reliable feedback mechanism for getting better. This is key.

If you read no further than the following heading you will discover one of the secrets of deliberate practice for reaching any goal. Of course, if you would also like to discover the complementary component that truly makes it work, you will want to read further.

Physical Practice is Self-Teaching

When a scientist enters the laboratory, he or she follows a disciplined process for making new discoveries. Variables are tested and the results recorded and analyzed. It’s one experiment, trial and error, after another.

The act of recording is much more than documentation. It creates awareness that leads to progress when action is taken to solve problems that stand in the way of you and your goal.

In my opinion, this is the secret to achieving goals.

More than practicing you have to test the boundaries that are holding you back.

Here’s an example of how solving one small obstacle led to massive progress toward my goal of running another marathon at age 60.

In the early days of my training, I experienced a recurring injury that shut my training down completely. This was troubling because two weeks later I was scheduled to participate in a memorial race honoring the legacy of my high school track coach.

Not being able to even walk without pain, I considered canceling. Then I researched injuries and made a remarkable discovery from a book on the anatomy and mechanics of running.

It turns out I was doing everything wrong. Who knew that we needed to be taught how to run? Actually, most of us need to unlearn habits that we’ve acquired from well-meaning people, including high school track coaches.

There is indeed a great deal of science behind running that I was completely unaware of. While the details are beyond the scope of this discussion, I’ll only say that nearly all of it is counterintuitive, such as using your legs as little as possible and shortening your stride to go faster.

What I learned from that book was rigorously tested in my training and the results recorded. That simple process of recording is a personal conversation that leads to progress, provided every condition you encounter is thoughtfully considered as a teaching moment.

Mental Practice is Self-Coaching

In addition to recording logical training data like pace, mileage and weather conditions, my running log is mostly an ongoing conversation of scientific experimentation. For example, after learning that a shorter stride and quicker cadence results in less fatigue and fewer injuries, I began testing it.

It was months before I was finally able to support the hypothesis. Part of the challenge was actually learning how to consistently and comfortably increase my running cadence (steps per minute). Then one evening it all seemed to magically come together, and that was a beautiful moment.

You don’t have to be a scientist to put scientific experimentation and deliberate practice to work in your personal life or business. More important is committing to a goal that you care deeply about and recording your progress, while always seeking solutions by doing research and more testing.

One particularly surprising discovery I made is that I often run faster into the wind, which clearly doesn’t make sense. I’ve reasoned this it is due to the cooling effect, which is part physical and part psychological.

This brings us to the power or mental practice. They say the mind leads the body. Actually, the two work together. I’ve also learned that mental fatigue is to be taken seriously because it compromises physical performance.

As a business leader, your words directly influence the minds of your team and that means they affect their physical productivity. Have you considered how useful it would be to understand what your people are thinking and feeling on any given day?

Businesses tend to track physical inputs and outputs, such as the man-hours necessary to complete a job. I believe it would also be helpful if each team member personally recorded his or her daily thoughts in a journal. This practice becomes valuable self-coaching that gets the wheels turning about how to make the next day better.

Those ideas can be tested when similar circumstances are encountered. Until that time the mind is actively working on crafting new solutions. Just staying the course with deliberate physical and mental practice and daily recording will get you there.

Show Notes

  • If you happen to be a runner, the following books were my faithful companions on the way to achieving my goal, which is still in front of me. You may hear more about that outcome in a future episode.

** Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention, by Jay Dicharry, MPT, SCS
** Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer.
** What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami