I have always been bad at practicing- especially things I had no inherent talent for, but also things I was good at. I was a decent trumpet player in school without trying but I absolutely would not practice at home regularly and perhaps missed out on being an excellent trumpet-player. But that was middle school… there are other not-as-random things I don’t practice- like writing or cleaning or having meaningful conversations or exercising.
I have lots of theories about why I don’t practice anything but the strongest reason I can think of is that I’m a perfectionist. Anything not done perfectly is not worth doing… or the act of practicing means admitting I’m less-than-perfect in whatever area it is and that’s uncomfortable enough to make me never do it.
Because of this, I have always been plagued with “if-only” thoughts. If only I made time to write every day, maybe I could fulfill my dream of having a successful blog and a book deal. If only I made time to clean every day, I’d have more people over and/or feel less stressed out. If only I exercised 20 min a day, I would have more energy and my clothes would fit better and I’d be more confident.
Also, for the last few months, I’ve been attempting to practice mindfulness. Every time I notice that I’m overwhelmed, it has helped me to say the word “practice” to myself. It’s been a tiny reminder that I’m practicing and I don’t have to have it all figured out yet.
So for 2017, I am launching the Practice Project. I will be practicing practicing. Once a month, I will choose one thing to practice consistently and I am going to blog about it. At the end of that month, I get to decide if it’s something I’d like to continue or if it’s something I am ok not doing consistently.
Here are the things I am hoping to accomplish by doing this:
1. To have a solid answer to my “if-only” inner monologue.
2. To receive the benefits of taking on good habits: stronger skills, better endurance, resilience, physical health benefits, mental health benefits, increased knowledge, broader and stronger social network, improved relationships, increased opportunities for work/fun/positive experiences- to name a few.
3. To produce regular content for a blog.
Here are some rules for my project:
1. I can change rules as-needed. This is an experiment and I’m expecting to discover things that do and don’t work so I have to be able to make changes.
2. I can fail. Stuff happens and if I can’t get my practice in for a month (or more), I’m still allowed to continue the project. (That’s really hard for a perfectionist.)
3. I can practice other stuff too. Just because February is cleaning month, it doesn’t mean I won’t try to also practice meditation or exercising or whatever- the themes are just focuses for each month. Writing is a practice I’ll have to continue to make the project work throughout the year.
The First Practice
As you might guess from that last rule, my practice for January is writing. I will write for at least 20 minutes a day with 4 days off I can take at any time. A lot of the writing will be published here, but not necessarily all of it. To support this practice, I will be reading “On Writing” by Stephen King and writing a review.
Practicing the rest of the year
I have tried several times to write my final list of 12 practices for the year and I’ve been unable to do so. I am allowing myself to pick the practice I need most as I go. That said, below is a list of possible practices for the year:
- Tidying up
- Social engagement
- Completing projects
- Loving kindness
- Photo a day
- Social engagement
- Blog building
- Epic lunches
- Excellent spouse month
- Excellent parent month
- SLP research
- Beauty/self care maintenance (flossing, using moisturizer, etc)
- Community building
- Completing episode 1 of a serial killers piece I’ve had in my head for like 10 years
- Finishing the manuscript of the kid’s book I’ve had in my head for years
- Listening to new (to me) music
- Developing recurring features for my blog (I.e. random fact Friday, ask a religious person…)
- Being in nature
At the beginning of each month, I will announce the month’s practice , its rules and what book I will be reading to support the practice.
This project is gigantic in some ways… it’s a commitment to 12 resolutions and 300+ days of dedicated activity… but I’ve built in flexibility, release valves and preemptive forgiveness. And I might accomplish incredible things. Or I won’t. Let’s see what happens!
Want to practice with me? Let’s be friends and support each other! Follow this blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Instagram @sincerelyimitated and hashtag #practiceproject