Practice makes perfect.  How many times have you heard that? It is a belief that we tend to accept almost without question. There are at least two problems with it, though.

First, it is impossible to be perfect.  Perfectionists tend not to accomplish things, because nothing is good enough. It could always be better.  In athletics, on rare occasions a gymnast or a diver may be given a ten on performance.  Even then, when the performance is reviewed via video recording, there are micro errors in any performance.

Should we practice and strive to do our best?  Of course.  The second problem with the phrase, “Practice makes perfect” is that what practice actually does is make something permanent.  The more we think a thought, perform an action, or do anything repeatedly, we are exercising a neuronal pathway in our brains, and the more likely we are to replicate what we are practicing. The more we practice something, even in visualization, the more we reinforce that behavior.  We also make it more likely that is how we will perform that action.  Mind leads thought leads to the action.

Practice just for the sake of practice without being mindful of performance can make more permanent whatever it is you are practicing at the level you are practicing.  Should you go out and run junk miles just to keep a streak alive?  It would be better to go out and focus on some aspect of the run – posture, turnover, etc. – and not just slog through for the sake of getting in some miles.  Whatever changes, whatever improvements you want to make in your behavior, first picture what they are.  Visualize them. Plan the practice in small systematic increments of behaviors you can achieve and be diligent in practicing those behaviors.   Martial artists start with very simple movements in learning, practice a lot and build on that. Diligence, mindfulness, and discipline can improve your performance. Strive to do your best, and remember that practice done well improves performance.