“Whatever you practice is what you will perform.”~ Paul Dennis
The first time I heard Paul, a gifted dancer and master teacher, utter these words in dance class, I didn’t fully appreciate the sweep of his wisdom. After all, I knew very well that one goal of all of our practicing was to get us to automaticity.
Ah yes, automaticity. What every practitioner of certain movements is aiming for at some level. From musicians to professional athletes to dancers to circus performers.
Automaticity involves honing “…the ability to do things without occupying the mind with the low-level details required, allowing it to become an automatic response pattern or habit. It is usually the result of learning, repetition, and practice.”
Paul reiterated his resonant nugget of wisdom often enough that it became a mantra for me. First in dancing…. then in living.
For one very cool thing about the body is also very true for the mind: The patterns we practice become our go-to choices. Whether they are patterns in movement or in thinking. As you know, our habits are especially likely to be reverted to when we are anxious or stressed or need to make a snap decision.
So, if I practice my pliés with sound alignment during class, I am much more likely onstage to execute pliés with that safe alignment–even when I am jittery. If I rehearse using a full range of motion, I increase the chances that my muscle memory will recreate that fullness when I perform.
What is at least equally exciting is this notion, known so well by yogis, therapists, and mindfulness practitioners, that what we practice mentally and emotionally is also likely to become our default pattern. So, if we practice positivity, we are more likely to think and act in a positive way, even when external challenges intensify.
Compassion, flexibility, mindfulness, humor, openness, courage? They are all experiences we are more likely to replicate, and get “better” at, if we practice them. (Obviously the same is true for their negative counterparts….)
So, as I look back over the past year, and forward to a brand spanking new one, I’ve been chewing on what it is that I have been practicing. As well as musing about what automaticity I’d like to develop in 2015. Knowing that whatever it is I choose to repeat and repeat and repeat again is what I am more likely to perform.
And what will you be practicing?