“Ninety-nine percent of people, once they learn how to do something, stop improving,” says K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University and co-editor of Expert Performance in Sports.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Ericsson. The secret is deliberate practice. Example: Playing basketball three days a week with your buddies will help your game, but not as much as drilling yourself in ball-handling, rebounding and jump shots will.
Take Ericsson’s steps for using deliberate practice to improve a skill:
- Pick a target. Make it specific, such as a certain golf handicap or sales record.
- Practice. Write down your plan for improvement. First, break the skill into pieces. Then, state how you’ll improve each piece. Decide whether a coach should help.
- Assess yourself. Are you advancing? If not, stick closer to the plan, revise it or find a new coach. Don’t “graduate” to a new skill until your mastery is consistent.