We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect.” It’s been drilled in our heads since we were learning to tie our shoes or french braid or long division. The general notion is that if you keep at it, you’ll achieve it. And at a very early stage, when we weren’t even aware of it, we adopted this notion of perfection: the ultimate goal of mankind. Yet here’s the problem–no one has achieved it, and therefore we hold up images as flawed as our own as “good enough” goals to aspire to. And the only human known to be sinless, Jesus Christ, is one many of us choose not to adopt as our example of “perfect,” because…well, because frankly no one wants to go through all that–teaching folks that don’t wanna listen, confronting liars of temples, and healing folks that can’t even say “thank you”–just to end up poor and persecuted and possibly killed. Ask an average child who they want to be when they grow up, and most likely the answer you get is an indication of what their minds have already considered perfect. And naturally, we practice our best walk, duck lip, and other characteristics in pursuit of perfection.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with practice. As a former track athlete, going to practice wasn’t even an option–it was required. Yet and still, the formula to being one of the best at the sport was not limited to practice. For top athletes, practice was merely the minimum. The most dedicated athletes were the ones that had a set goal in mind that was way bigger than being the first to cross that finish line. I was a pretty decent athlete by just going to practice. But it wasn’t until I dedicated a whole year to track, including my summer and winter breaks, that I got a glimpse of what the process of becoming a world-class athlete really was. Weight-training targeting specific areas. Balanced meals that gave enough energy while also assisting in recovery. And treating EVERY sprint and jump like it was a competition. There were no shortcuts to Junior Olympics or Meet of Champions. Practice was merely one part of the process towards a bigger, greater goal.
PART 2: Process vs. Practice
It’s been over 10 years since I hurdled or lunged into a sand pit. Like many, my focus shifted to academics and career. I don’t regret how I left the sport, either. One day, while in college, I just asked myself simply “is this what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life?” And I walked away. I accepted that that time was over. In other areas of my life, I wish it were that easy. By holding on to a “practice makes perfect” attitude, you run the risk of practicing far too long in a place and space that God may have already pushed you out of. Practice no longer makes perfect; it makes insanity. But shifting gears after engaging in aimless actions is not the easiest thing to do, either. Chances are, you have already asked yourself “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” Reaching that answer does not mean aimless practicing of prayers or chants or talks with people who think they know more about your future than you do. Reaching that answer requires a process.
So what is a process? Or rather, why on this first day of the year am I asking you to trade in “practice” for “process?” Practice, in my mind, is the art of repetition; a religious discipline with a laser-beam focus on a particular area one decides needs improvement. Indeed, practice is necessary, but far too often it is where many people start. “If I go to the studio enough times, Imma be a dancer,” or “If I just keep writing everyday, I’m gonna sell a million books.” “If I just pray, any prayer, God will give me what I want.” There are many life lessons to be gleaned from practicing, but never confuse your self-made practice routine as an automatic sign that you are definitely doing what you are designed to do.
Process is defined as a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. Process is NOT a list of potential achievements, NOR a list of “to dos.” Rather it is a string of to-dos in order to REACH a specific outcome. It is an acknowledgement that some actions may take longer than others, and some steps may require you to sprint instead of jog. Sometimes, you got to be specific, and other times, you just gotta show up. And most comforting of all, it allows for trial & error. Process does not take you to the land of Perfection, but is part of the voyage to Purpose. The former is a man-made standard, with judgment coming from the world and persons just as flawed as you. The latter is a God-made destination, with grace and mercy already woven into its fabric, and no approval necessary from your neighbor. God will not let any being, who is brave enough to take the journey towards their original plan, stumble and regress.
Many have a difficult time identifying their “particular end,” or purpose, because of the bigness of it. You see yourself, as you are today, and get visions of all you are capable of being…and it scares you! In fact, it may not even have a title, and may include several major milestones. For now, forget titles. Simply accept what God reveals to you. And accept it as yours.
PART 3: Interrupt Your Brunch for a Sec
1) What is your “particular end”? What does it look like?
2) What are the series of actions you would need to take to get there? Can they fit in a calendar year, or will it require more time?
3) What are the steps you plan to take on this month that would get you closer to your “particular end?”
May this supplement your vision parties, reflections, and mimosas.
Welcome to 2015, where Process Makes Purpose!