Practice Makes Perfect?

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We grow up hearing the phrase, “Practice Makes Perfect,” yet I wonder if saying this can actually do more harm than good at times?

I have the pleasure of teaching piano to several young students these days. It is fun to watch them learn new things, and discover what they can do if they are willing apply the discipline required. In order for notes to be learned, rhythms conquered and pieces played musically, it does take real determination and practice time. However, I prefer to encourage them to practice in order to get better, not to be perfect.

This same philosophy can be true for life. “Practice Makes Better – Not Perfect.” For one thing, we set ourselves up for failure if we believe we can ever reach perfection. Only God is perfect. We may hit some real high points in our skills and achieve our goals once in a while. However, the ability to be consistent in these achievements all of the time is what makes perfection unattainable.

Do we just give up and call it a day then? I hope not! While I know that I am far from perfect and that I will fail as I work hard in life, I also know that I can make a difference in this world. My efforts are important and serve purpose. So are yours!

When I am weak and fall short of my goal, I can still find strength in knowing that at least I tried and hopefully I learned something from my shortcomings. I can ask, “What is it God is trying to teach me through this lesson?” One important message I must keep in mind is that I am only strong and successful when God is my strength and I allow Him to determine my path and direction.

Another lesson we can absorb in falling short at times is that we can develop empathy for those around us who also struggle. If we always win and are successful at everything we try, then we may have difficulty understanding when those around us fail in their attempts in life. May God use those hard lessons we face to soften our own hearts and minds towards the battle others may be fighting so that we can lend a hand – either literally or prayerfully.

As you begin this week and you have your to-do-list in front of you, what will be your goal of practice? Will it be to strive for perfection and be disappointed, or will it be to focus on getting better, thereby honoring the One who allows you the skills in the first place.

Until next time –

Karen

Practice Makes Perfect

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We have all heard the expression “Practice Makes Perfect.” If you do something long enough and often enough, you’ll get really good at it – perhaps even perfect! Right?

The idea of practice can be applied to a variety of activities: playing soccer, writing, skating, singing, drawing, cooking, and driving. In our home, our youngest son, who is quite musical,  did a lot of practicing. You get the idea. We learn a skill and by doing it often, we get better at it. Actual work and effort are required in order to improve.

There are some parts of life that also get better with practice. Today we will look at the skill and art of  walking. We don’t often see a baby just stand up and take off immediately when they’re seven or eight months old, suddenly deciding it’s time to walk. No, they have to stand on teetering legs, hold on to whatever is near by to keep their balance, then take a tentative step or two before crashing to the ground. Fortunately, babies are built to handle this brutal learning process. They aren’t discouraged, but continue trying even though they fall and fail. Then one day, they finally manage to succeed!

Those of us who have experienced loss in life can learn much from these little, persistent people. The first lesson is that they have a goal. They want to walk. Okay. Maybe they just want to reach the toy that is across the room. But it is a goal nonetheless. And they have a plan to get there! Stand, balance and move on two legs to reach their destination. As we come out of the fog that grief spreads over our minds after a loss, we realize that we too may need to move forward and reach a destination. It might be as simple as getting out of bed in the morning. Perhaps it is cleaning up and meeting a friend for lunch. The main point is to look forward to something, fix your eyes on that goal and create a plan to make it happen.

The next lesson we can learn from our young walker is that perseverance is vital. Be prepared to fail once in a while. There will be times we plan to meet friends for lunch or head to a movie by ourselves just to get out of the house and find we can’t.  Placing our hand on the door handle, we just do not want face the world on that particular day and instead, stay in the house and have a good cry or pick up a book instead. It seems we failed. There is nothing wrong with you if this is your story. But remember that baby who picks himself up after failure and tries again. So today isn’t a good day to get out. Set your new goal for tomorrow and make it happen then. Don’t give up! Stick with the plan. The more you get out and accomplish your goals, the easier you will find it to handle the challenges that life throws at you.

Here is one final tip from our little toddler. As he is first learning to take a few steps, he reaches out to hang on to someone or something for balance. We need to be willing to take assistance from those around us. Accept invitations to get out. Confide in a friend of your struggles and fears so they can pray for you and help you when you feel weak and frail. Spend time reading the Bible to find strength and courage from God.

As you put these skills into practice, you will get better at them. You’ll be able to handle more and understand more. You’ll be able to celebrate the little victories in life. Yeah! You went to dinner. Good for you! Paying the bills wasn’t so bad. Way to go! You managed to walk a mile today, getting fresh air.

These activities may not seem earth shattering – but they can be life changing for people walking through grief. Trading your sadness and pain for small successes is a great start to the practice of really living again. We may not reach perfection in life, but we can certainly improve and learn to enjoy our journey. Keep it up! You can do this! I’m cheering for you!

Until next time –

Karen