"Practice", and "Play"



The expression “practice makes perfect” is one of those concepts that transcends geography, race, class, and just about all other boundaries.  It’s a concept that is often implemented by teachers, mentors, guides, and gurus across the globe. Why is that? - It’s because wel..., it’s true.  Without the routine of practice finding its way into a person’s life, then there is literally not going to be an opportunity to discover, hone, and master a skill.  Some say it takes 10,000 hours, others say a lifetime, and some even say that true mastery is idealistic, which is by definition, unattainable yet strived for… It all depends on who you are talking to.

I personally do see the value of this and have utilized “practice” myself over my lifetime to become proficient and successful at what I do.  Where I differ though is here; I don’t like the word practice. I prefer the word “play,” and that’s because the word play excites me. It evokes feelings of fun, joy, and youthfulness.  It carries with it for me, a sense of adventure, and a little bit of danger, but the kind of danger that we are ignorant to as kids, which can be something of concern, but at the same time it also brings a sense of fearlessness and openness to try.  TRY. This word has a few sides to it. Some have said “There is no such thing as try. There is do or don’t.” and I can agree with this some days, but other times, I don’t take issue with the word, as it is a little less oppressive to certain people.  One can say “DO this”, and the result could go either way, and one can also say “TRY this”, and it can be taken a few ways. That’s where tone and inflection comes into play. I guess it comes back to the idea of Play as the word of choice versus practice.  TRY feels more like a playful word to me, where DO feels a little more academic. The idea here is to keep things feeling fun. And perhaps this slight rant about the semantics of words is a tad out of scope for the topic, but at the same time, I think it’s valuable to bring it up, and that’s because different people will react differently to various “commands”, if you will.  It’s all about perspective and how people absorb and apply information within their comfort zones.

Back to the idea of Play over Practice, as a philosophy:

Both words are important.  Practice carries an air of discipline, structure, formula, and even maybe oppression-for-your-own-good.  Play, as I wrote above, is a lighter, more colorful word, that brings a sense of silliness, and spontaneity.  There is value and validity to both, and though I don’t think the words should be synonymous, I do think that there needs to be a seamless flow between the two, where they both become accessible for application at any given time, or even more hopefully, in tandem.  Like a computer that is running two applications at the same time, and what is the brain, if not the body’s supercomputer. So it is IS possible to do this, and it’s the way I personally prefer to operate. For example, when I teach, I need to bring my “work” self out and I have to encourage practice, because it has a more urgent nature to it, which is important for new students, but while also pushing the idea of practice, I also refer to the work as play as it pertains to not only the student, but also to me.  I don’t feel like I work every day, I feel like I play, and that the art of playing is a practice unto itself. In yoga, the term practice is utilized for daily asanas and mantras, since it’s not something we organically “do” as a function of our bodies or nature. So as humans we have to “practice” at doing this but the practice itself can be an act of play just as easily! Not everyone has the mindset to see it this way however. And that’s what this writing is really about.

For those out there that dread their developmental activities as “practice”, and if that word selection brings about a sense of resistance, boredom, or fatigue, then switch it out for PLAY.  I have adult students who are learning music and they say “I don’t have time to practice because of work, kids, wife/husbad etc...” and to them I say “Unless you are planning to go professional, stop using the word practice and call it PLAY, as it will take the pressure off of your mind to ‘do this or else I am not taking it seriously.’” I (and others) call this “sacred play”: the activity of doing important work, but without all the sludge of heavy words like practice or work.  

The idea is to keep the mind stimulated and open enough to keep it FUN.  One can be doing rocket science and if that’s their thing, then they will have a blast doing it and go home happy each day.  

This opens up a new topic : Are You Really Doing What You Want To Do In Your Life?  Next blog we will explore this.  For now, keep active no matter what you call it as long as you are growing, having fun, and feeling the spirit of creativity flowing through you.

Till Next Time

JCMW on Instagram

Suggested Blogs for You