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The Mental Toughness Digest (MTD)

The “MTD” is in the process of moving to it’s new home at For recent editions and how to subscribe for free please go to The below is now an archive of editions published before March 2016.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Practice makes permanent, not perfect

Practice makes perfect is a myth as perfect is unobtainable. Much more accurate is practice makes permanent in that the motor skills you’re practising become so ingrained and natural that nothing can get in their way. One of the biggest dilemmas we face in sport is that to get something to become truly permanent you have to practice it A LOT (estimations suggest around 20 hours a week) and yet doing the same thing over and over will soon become boring. The solution is not to compromise on the amount you practice but vary the types and intensity of the training blocks. One of the simplest ways of doing this is to introduce some mental rehearsal into each practice session where you are either watching clips of how to do it correctly or imagining the same.

Another excellent way of preventing boredom is make sure every training session is challenging. If you don’t already know how to do this then I suggest asking how to add Pressure and Harder Practice to your current regime. It’s gold. GJM

4 comment(s) so far

Written by Patrea O'Donoghue at 11:08 AM, on May 04, 2012


Perhaps boredom IS the practice. Too often, variety panders to the wanderlust of the monkey mind. If the athlete or performer could override their stimulation-seeking drives and develop the ability to remain focussed on their skill development, they would reap the benefits. Afterall, in the midst of competition you want the mind to stay laser-focussed not to succumb to dispelling boredom. And rather than practice makes permanent, practice makes automatic and habitual. So just as perfect is a myth, most likely, so too is permanent; neuroplasticity attests to that. Overriding the desire to ditch boredom may then become automatic.

Written by Ash F at 12:38 PM, on June 22, 2012


I have grown up playing 2 sports; netball and tennis. Of the 4 coaches I have had in netball and 2 coaches I have had in tennis, all 6 have told me at some stage that “perfect practice makes perfect.” Training/practicing at a low intensity, or with the wrong technique and or a mindset which does not allow you to be 100% focussed, will be a pointless exercise; you may as well not be training at all. Conversely, if the athlete is training at a high intensity, with the correct technique and with a focussed mindset and attitude, their increased quality of performance will reflect the high quality of their practice schedule. I also see the importance of “practice makes permanent” as repetitive practice of a particular motor skill seems to become a subconscious action in performance which can be repeated over and over again without a great amount of thinking. Mastering the motor skills of riding a bike is something that most of us can achieve, and most of us can still do years after we have learnt this skill. It is not as if we have to consciously think about how to move our knees and sit on the bike every time we ride; because of prior practice, this skill has become a permanent, subconscious skill.

I also agree with your perspective on optimum practice, Gareth. During my psychology course, I have learnt that training should be on a variable schedule. To overcome the issue of boredom in training, perhaps a “random” practice schedule is necessary? For example, a tennis player trains 4 times a week with a random schedule applied to their training. On Day 1 they could practice forehands for the first 20 minutes, backhands for the next 20 minutes, and volleys for the last 20 minutes. On Day 2, the order would be different (perhaps backhands for the first 20, volleys for the next 20 and forehands for the last 20). This may overcome the problem of boredom and has been proven to show greater results in learning and motor skill development.

There is a slight problem with monitoring a motor skill however; because cognitive development when someone learns a new skill cannot be directly observed, we have to judge the newly formed skills based on performance which is highly objective and not very reliable if other factors are involved (e.g. the standard of the opposition, the weather, the court/field). So rather than perfect being “unobtainable”, maybe it is more of an “objective” construct?

Written by Ash F at 04:41 PM, on June 22, 2012


Sorry, I meant to say that perfect is a * subjective construct

Written by Condor Performance at 11:01 AM, on June 25, 2012


@Ash F: If perfect is obtainable then it would have to exist. If it exists you’d have to be able to give an example of something that is perfect. I would be keen to know an example of something that in your mind is (it’s a given that the term is subjective – everything is psychology is). GJM

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