Purposeful practice requires getting out of one’s comfort zone.
This is perhaps the most important part of purposeful practice.
This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve. Getting out of your comfort zone means trying to do something that you couldn’t do before. Sometimes you may find it relatively easy to accomplish that new thing, and then you keep pushing on. But sometimes you run into something that stops you cold and it seems like you’ll never be able to do it. Finding ways around these barriers is one of the hidden keys to purposeful practice.
Generally the solution is not “try harder” but rather “try differently.” It is a technique issue, in other words…
The best way to get past any barrier is to come at it from a different direction, which is one reason it is useful to work with a teacher or coach. Someone who is already familiar with the sorts of obstacles you’re likely to encounter can suggest ways to overcome them.
Purposeful practice is…much more purposeful, thoughtful, and focused than this sort of naive practice. In particular, it has the following characteristics:
Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals.
Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal. Break it down and make a plan: What exactly do you need to do to …you need to break it down even more: What exactly will you do…
The key thing is to take that general goal—get better—and turn it into something specific that you can work on with a realistic expectation of improvement.
Purposeful practice is focused…You seldom improve much without giving the task your full attention.
Purposeful practice involves feedback.
You have to know whether you are doing something right and, if not, how you’re going wrong.
Generally speaking, no matter what you’re trying to do, you need feedback to identify exactly where and how you are falling short. Without feedback—either from yourself or from outside observers—you cannot figure out what you need to improve on or how close you are to achieving your goals.