Deliberate Practice and the Inner Life

Rich Simon

By Rich Simon You might think that there’s a world of difference between reaching an outstanding level of performance in skilled activities like performing surgery, being a musician, playing chess or becoming a champion basketball player, on the one hand, and achieving psychological change on the other. But while we’re all familiar with the idea that mastering complex skills requires hours, days, weeks, years of practice, including regularly facing our limitations, what does all that have to do with psychological change?

Tara Brach, bestselling author, noted psychotherapist and one of the foremost American teachers of Buddhism, believes that there’s a direct connection between learning to sit on a cushion doing Buddhist meditation, sitting across from your clients in your consulting room and learning how to master the art of the crossover dribble. To get better at any of these, you need to develop skills of attention and qualities of awareness and mindfulness, and, perhaps most of all, a humbling willingness to focus on your limitations and go beyond them through the discipline of what Symposium keynoter K. Anders Ericsson, the world’s expert on expertise, calls deliberate practice.

At this year’s Networker Symposium devoted to The Therapist’s Craft: Healing Connection in a Digital World, Tara will be the keynote speaker the day after Ericsson’s opening address. The clip below offers a preview of how she views the link between deliberate practice and the challenge of becoming a better therapist or achieving fuller psychological or spiritual understanding.

Radiating compassion and wisdom with a tincture of humor and common sense, Tara embodies what she teaches. She has a rare presence that makes us feel touched and warmed, more inclined to be compassionate toward our own weaknesses and failings, more hopeful that we can extend those same qualities to our clients. In a world ever more given over to technology, she offers an effortless demonstration of what healing human connection is all about. To get a taste of what attendees at this year’s Symposium will be able to experience in person, just click here.

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