I've been thinking about proficiency...


"It is only when you are alone that you can engage in something called Deliberate Practice, which has been identified as the key to exceptional achievement" by research psychologists.  "When you practice deliberately," (meaning when you do the application opposed to speculating about the theories relating to it!), "you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly."

Psychologists also note that "Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons.  It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting.  It requires deep motivation, often self-generated.  But most important, it involves working on a task that's most challenging to you personally.  Only when you are alone, can you go directly to the part that is challenging you,  If you want to improve what you are doing, you have to be the one that generates the move."  Susan Cain, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, Crown Publishers, New York, p. 81.

It has been determined that it takes approximately ten thousand hours of Deliberate Practice to gain true expertise - great skill or knowledge in a particular field - so it helps to start young!  According to one psychologist,"who studied the lives of ninety-one exceptionally creative people in the arts, sciences, business and government, many of his subjects were on the social margins during adolescence, partly because "intense curiosity or focused interest seems odd to their peers."  Quiet, p. 82.  I spent many hours of my youth alone with nature, books and ideas.  Thanks, mom, for the weekly trips to the library and the space to dream and breathe that are part of the solid foundation of farm life!

Thinking back over my 63 years I've been reflecting on how I spent my time.  Some of the thousands of hours were whiled away doing what I call "puttering" which means doing lots of little things to make my physical environment more beautiful.  But there are also thousands of hours where I made conscious, intentional, carefully considered decisions, too.

Follow my logic:
I have approximately 16 accountable hours every day and on my last birthday I was 63 years old so 63 years X 365 days = 22,999 days X 16 hours = 367,984 hours. 

I have been married since I was 21 years old so 63-21 = 42 years X 365 days = 15,330 days X 16 hours = 245,280 hours.

I have been a mother since I was 24 years old so 63-24 = 39 years X 365 days = 14,235 days X16 hours = 227,760 hours.

I have been actively mentoring since I was 43 years old so 63-43 = 20 years X 365 days = 7,300 days X 16 hours = 116,800 hours.

I know, I know, I know... there are many other things to factor in to these numbers but you get my drift.  The essence is that the volume still indicates an immense amount of hours that were available to me.  The volume also indicates that I have easily put in over 10,000 hours in each of these areas, most likely several times over, and I do believe I did so while applying Deliberate Practice - deliberately - during many, many, many of those hours - because that is just the way I do things!  So now I am wondering - when is someone like me actually pronounced PROFICIENT (competent, skilled) at something?

This is one of those times that I am the only one who can determine proficiency for myself.  And, I don't mind if I do take a few moments to pat myself on the back.  And, while I am at it, let me do that for you as well.  Take a few moments to reflect on when and how you have practiced Deliberate Practice.  Aging does have some significant benefits, after all!