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Keep Going: The Art of The Daily Practice

“Each step is movement on a journey that we can only hope will continue. The infinite game has no time clock or scoreboard, no winners or losers. It is simply a chance to trust ourselves enough to participate.” – Seth Godin

The Practice by Seth Godin is a phenomenal meditation on the creative process.  It answered many questions about creativity that I didn’t know I had.  Reading this book helped shift my mindset from ‘What do I want to create?’ to ‘What does my audience want?’

The main theme of the book? “Authenticity is a trap.”  To succeed in a creative profession, you have to determine who your work is for and then serve them the best you can. 

My last article was about how to begin a daily practice.  This one is about how to optimize your daily practice and remain consistent.

1. Be Fully Present

“The basis of the practice is to directly participate in each moment as it occurs with as much awareness and understanding as possible.” — Stephen Levine

Your best work will be created when you’re fully present in the moment.  Creating work in this state unlocks the experience of flow.  When you’re in flow, you lose track of time.  In this state, the task in front of you is all that exists.

You can’t count on flow to show up every time.  The most you can do is create a space for it.  Sitting down to do the work is the first step.  The more consistently you show up, the more you’ll experience flow.

“Flow is the result of effort.  The muse shows up when we do the work.  Not the other way around.  Set up your tools, turn off the internet and go back to work.” – Seth Godin

2. Focus Intensely On The Work

“Your practice demands your intensity: every muscle fiber, every moral conviction, every brain cell, and every ounce of passion. Do not fear plumbing your depths, and do not fear exhausting yourself. After all, you’re only bringing this necessary intensity to your endeavor for a limited amount of time: for twenty minutes, for thirty minutes, for an hour. Will you burn out in just twenty minutes? Probably not!” – Eric Maisel

In your daily practice, you must engage with the work intensely.  Your work is not easy.  If it were, it wouldn’t be valuable.  To fully accomplish a difficult task, work through obstacles as if they’re not even there.

A high level of intensity results in much greater productivity.  Ratchet up the intensity of your work. Then you can get done in two hours what would normally take eight.  Forget about distractions.  For this work session, you’re all in.

To achieve this level of intensity, it helps to listen to the right music.  I use instrumental music like Vasudeva, or binaural beats from the app Brain.FM.  Music is a great shortcut to intense focus and flow.

“Mindfulness demands intention.  Mindfulness is the practice of simply doing the work.  Without commentary, without chatter, without fear.  To simply do our work.” – Seth Godin

3. Use A Mantra To Block Out Distractions

Your daily practice is more effective when there aren’t a million different thoughts running through your head.  It’s easy to sit down for the practice, and then repeatedly get distracted by unrelated trains of thought. Having a clear mind is essential to creating quality work.

Meditation helps control these thoughts, but there is a quicker way to get rid of them.  You can repeat a mantra. That is, a simple phrase designed to focus your mind.  

Repeat the mantra in your mind. That way, it’s your only thought.  All the rest are blocked out.

Here are some mantras Eric Maisel recommends:

  • Do The Next Right Thing
  • Right Here, Right Now
  • This Is The Work

4. Use Accountability To Stay Consistent

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant

To stay consistent, track your practice.  Set an amount of time to work each day. Keep track of how many days you achieve this goal. 

I use the app Loop for tracking, but a paper habit tracker works just as well.  Start with an achievable amount of time.  My goal is one 45-minute focused writing session each day.

Outside accountability is incredibly helpful, too.  I’m part of a Challenge Group.  We each choose a daily practice to complete for 30 days, and hold each other accountable to it.  You can set this up with friends who also want to start a daily practice.  Both types of accountability are essential to get a new practice started.

“Many people have talent, but only a few care enough to show up fully, to earn their skill.  Skill is rarer than talent.  Skill is earned.  Skill is available to anyone who cares enough.  If you put the effort into your practice, you will be rewarded with better.  Better taste, better judgment, better capabilities.” – Seth Godin

5. Restart As Many Times As It Takes

“Resume your practice if you stopped it. If you miss a day, simply start again the following day without fuss or drama. But if you begin to miss many days — which can easily turn into months and forever — then you need to mindfully, intentionally, and formally begin again.” – Eric Maisel

Your daily practice is incredibly important.  The most effective way to build any skill or endeavor is by making it a daily practice.  Having the right daily practices can transform our lives.  So…why is it so difficult to keep them going?

Life often gets in the way, or our priorities change.  We miss one day, then two, then we forget we ever had a daily practice.  It could be months later when we suddenly remember how effective our practice was.

To prevent that, just restart.  Your daily practice might fall apart over and over again.  You’ll have to restart every time it falters.  Whether you’ve been practicing for one week or ten years, you’ll always need to restart the practice every time it stops.

“Again and again, creative leaders fail.  It is the foundation of our work.  We fail and then we edit and then we do it again.” – Seth Godin

Joel Smith

Author and writing coach at The Fit Writer.

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