Solitude and Resolutions

January 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Photo of my son D at Kerry Park

Photo of my son D at Kerry Park

I am reading this amazing book – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, it is a fantastic read.

You can listen to the author, Susan Cain give her Ted Talk here (which has been viewed more than five million times).

In the chapter “When Collaboration Kills Creativity” she writes on the now-famous study conducted by Anders Ericsson. Regarding the value of solitary practice among the elite in their fields (violinists, chess players and athletes):

What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he identified as the key to exceptional achievement. When you practice deliberately, you identify the tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly. Practice sessions that fall short of this standard are not only less useful–they’re counterproductive. They reinforce existing cognitive mechanisms instead of improving them.

Deliberate Practice is best conducted alone for several reasons. It takes intense concentration, and other people can be distracting. It requires deep motivation, often self-generated. But most important, it involves working on a task that’s most challenging to you personally. Only when you’re alone, Ericsson told me, can you “go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve what you’re doing, you have to the be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class-you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”

You can read a fantastic summary on the study’s findings here.

Reading about this at the same moment I’ve been slowing down and thinking about my life and my goals for the new year feels very apropos. I’ve been cleaning house both literally and mindfully, and working to, in the words of my very wise mother-in-law, “clear out of your mind that which has outgrown its usefulness” to make space for the new. As life picks up speed next week as we settle in to 2014, I will continue to make time for the Quiet; to recharge, be inspired and appreciate all that is around me.

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