We’ve all heard the expression, “Practice makes perfect.” In fact, most of us are guilty of repeating that old bromide, typically to encourage some extremely imperfect activity. Nonetheless, this hoary oyster holds within a pearl of pure truth. Neuroscience tells us that practice makes perfect because of myelination.
Our incredible brains never stop changing, which can be a bad thing depending on how we invest or squander our time. As they say, you are what you do, thanks to myelination. Everything we think, say, or do involves the firing of long chains of neurons in our brains. Myelin is an insulating tissue that forms a layer or sheath around the axon of a neuron. Apparently, myelin develops along neural pathways that fire over and over, and its function is to increase the speed of neural impulses along these pathways. In essence, the more we perform a certain task, the faster and easier repetition becomes.
Of course, doing the wrong thing over and over again only makes doing the wrong thing faster and easier. If you are focused on working towards mastery, heed the words of a renowned winner. Football coach Vince Lombardi qualified the conventional wisdom when he said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
So embrace practice, but make sure you couple it with expert correction. Seek feedback and adjust accordingly. Also be sure to unleash the testing effect by incorporating high quality tests into your practice regimen. And once you start, keep going until you reach your goals!