Maximillian, an expert archer, was touring the country side putting on stunning exhibitions. Crowds formed wherever he went. They watched him split an apple in midair, hit a target blindfolded, he stood on his hands and shot the bow with his feet, Maximillian sent flaming arrows through a spinning hoop. The crowds applauded with wild enthusiasm showering him with coins. At a small town outside London the archer was once again in perfect display of his talents. He was startled when, from the crowd he kept hearing someone whisper, “It’s just practice.” Each time he achieved his stunning feats the voice murmured, “It’s just practice.”
Later, as he walked through the village he passed an oil salesman. The salesman looked familiar. Maximillian confronted him, “Excuse me, were you the man who was ridiculing my archery show today with chants of, “It’s just practice?” The oil salesman smiled sheepishly. “Yes, I admit, that was me.” Maximillian reared back. “Don’t you know how amazing the skills are I have and how long it took to achieve them? No one can do what I can do. How can you deride me like that?” The oil salesman nodded and reached down, “I’ll show you.” He produced a coin with a tiny hole in it. “Hold this low to the ground.” Maximillian shrugged and held the coin two inches from the dirt. The oil salesman took out a large pot of oil and poured it from five feet above the coin. The oil streamed perfectly through the coin’s hole without a drop touching the metal. The salesman stopped the stream of oil, and held out the pot. “Now you do it.” Maximillian stood perplexed. The salesman smiled. “You see, you can’t do it. You haven’t practiced. I’ve been practicing it for years. All you have done is practice some tricks and performed them. All of life is just practice. Some people are practicing archery, some practice making money, some are practicing laziness, others practice depression with repeated depressive thoughts, some are practicing their addictions by committing to drinking or sex or drugs, some are practicing joy by joyful thoughts and generosity, some practice giving up, some practice painting, others practice getting fat by eating over their feelings, some practice poverty, and others practice perfecting their bodies with work out routines and diet. Life is very simple my friend, it’s all just practice. Once you know what you are practicing you have the choice to continue and master it, or change your practice.”
Have you considered what you are practicing? Serious meditators say they have a “meditation practice.” Athletes say their success is based on going to “practice.” The Beatles famously practiced ten thousand hours of playing music in strip clubs before breaking through to the main stream. Authors Steven Pressfield and James Patterson have a writing practice every day. Stevie Wonder sits down at the piano every morning and practices.
When we come into therapy we’ve usually been conditioned from early experiences to practice things like self-hatred, hopelessness, helplessness, procrastination, blaming, victimization, we practice addictions, laziness, codependency, violence, jealousy, avoidance, obsession, the list goes on.
What if we realized all of our pain was coming from past conditioning and practicing the wrong things? What if we decided to adopt new practices in a very straightforward, simple manner? What if we stopped over complicating our lives with endless analysis? What if our lives were mostly just cause and effect? We can practice self-loving thoughts in place of self-criticism, we can have a work out practice, we can spend time practicing our art instead of practicing watching TV, we can practice generosity, practice prosperity thinking and investing, practice action instead of passivity, practice directness in place of people pleasing, practice sobriety in place of addiction, etc.
Old practices can die hard. There has been a lot of conditioning going on in our brains through self-destructive practices. We may need the leverage of a professional to change. With a therapist we can make new commitments, be held accountable until we can hold ourselves accountable, challenge our belief systems, and develop healthy practices.
What’s required is self-responsibility, a willingness to look at what we’ve been practicing, and a commitment to practice those things that work. Remember, every day you are practicing something. What's your practice?
Click below to see the king of practice, Michael Jordan, gives us a lesson: