Deliberate Practice and Expertise: The Best Stress
Yesterday, you learned that the stress resilience can be cultivated through purposeful good stress and that one of the best forms of stress is the stress of learning. Today, we’ll talk about it in more detail.
Building Your Expertise
Learning is a deliberate engagement with challenge—with stress—to build new skills, abilities, and knowledge sets. True expertise takes a great deal of time and effort—of chosen stress—to achieve. Research from K. Anders Ericsson reveals that generally, expertise takes about 10,000 hours to develop. Accomplishment as a highly qualified amateur may come after about 2,000 hours of practice, professional status may come after about 5,000 hours of practice, but true expertise takes an accumulation of 10,000 hours of what Ericsson calls deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is different than just repetitive training. Deliberate practice means training activities specifically designed to enhance performance. It has the following features:
• a well-defined task
• an appropriate difficulty level
• based on the individual’s current ability
• the individual putting in a high level of effort
• opportunities for repetition and error correction
Remember Lesson 2: Good stressors are difficult but possible. Deliberate practice is difficult but possible. It’s challenging—it pushes us beyond our current abilities just a little, so we can build our next range of abilities.
The Healthy Aging Benefits of the Process of Expertise
Even without the achievement of 10,000 hours and expertise status, the process of deliberate practice is valuable in and of itself. Consider first that according to an international survey, a quarter of adults worldwide say losing their memory through Alzheimer’s is their greatest health fear and that 96% of adults say that staying self-sufficient into old age is their most important priority.
Then consider that deliberate practice as an ongoing process in life can become a vital strategy for addressing this stressor head on. Hard work to learn something new is one of the best investments you can make to maintain your cognitive health as you age. For instance, in one experiment, learning a new complex skill, like quilting or photography, improved memory functions among older adult participants. Other research has found that learning a second language in adulthood improves later-life cognition.
So heading back to school through continuing education programs can be one way to challenge yourself. Learning new things through deliberate practice can help you face head-on the stress of later-in-life memory loss. Deliberate stress is good stress that yields multifaceted, long-term benefits.
Your task: Identify something you either want to start learning or learn more about. Where do you want to pursue your expertise?
Tomorrow, we’ll look at how to minimize the hassles and irritants that can wear you down in daily life.
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