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Does Practice Make Perfect?

From the time I was much younger, I recalled coaches and teachers repeatedly telling me that “Practice Makes Perfect!”  Guess what, they were WRONG!  In a moment, I will tell you where the fault in their thinking and belief was.

I first became aware of the wonders of hypnosis when I was 10 or 11 years old.  I saw my first stage hypnosis show and became amazed at the antics performed by many people that I knew.  Now many of the skits that were performed at the time are not used today, but nonetheless, it demonstrated the power of the subconscious mind to control our beliefs, perceptions and yes, our behaviors.  Allow me to demonstrate what I mean.  I want you to picture me standing there in front of you.  For those who don’t know me, you can imagine that I look something like Josh Duhamel.  I just a bit shorter, a bit heavier, and a little bit older.  But for purposes of this exercise, imaging I look like him will work just fine.    So, I am standing in front of you holding this wonderful, juicy yellow lemon.  I take a silver knife from the wooden table and cut a wedge from the lemon.  The juice is running down my arm as I do this.  Very slowly, I bring this fragrant, lemon wedge that is dripping with juice and bring it to my lips.  I take a long savory bite from the lemon and feel the pucker as the juice enters my mouth.

I am sure that many of you experienced the salivation and pucker that is typical of having physically experienced that action.  Yet, I was nowhere near you.  The point being, that your powerful subconscious mind took you through that experience just as though you had actually bitten into that lemon.

Let me return back to my first experience with hypnosis.  I watched in amazement as people I knew, some really good friends, bit into a really large onion.  I remember the smell of those onions permeating the entire room, yet, every one of those people on that stage, believed that had just bitten into the sweetest, most flavorful apple they had ever eaten.  In fact, many of those same people were very disappointed when the hypnotist would not give them more to eat.

What does any of that have to do with the idea that “practice makes perfect”?  In 2005, a Doctoral student (B. Vasquez) at Washington State University conducted a research project involving the basketball team and free throws.  He divided the team into three groups.  One group practiced foul shooting as is the common practice among basketball players.  The second group, practiced free throws and also received hypnosis for sports improvement (free throw shooting).  The third group only received hypnosis for their free throws.  Now if practice does indeed make perfect, one might reasonably conclude that either group one or group two would have the best outcomes.  The results, which have since been replicated in other and similar studies, showed that in fact, group three, the group that never practiced free throws, but only received hypnosis, had the best results.  The conclusion is that our minds cannot differentiate between the hypnotic and actual physical experience.

Regardless of what we are doing in our lives, we learn at the subconscious level.  And, it is at the subconscious level that we must make changes.  This is why hypnosis is such a powerful tool in bringing about rapid and lasting change.  Our powerful subconscious minds attach emotion to behaviors.  The mind comes to establish pathways to accomplish tasks either through actual physical actions or in hypnosis.  And just like the volunteer on stage who is sweating profusely because they believe the suggestion that it is 120 degrees on stage, or is laughing hysterically at a movie that is playing only in their mind, those who are hypnotized as an aid to performance in sports or life, are training their subconscious minds to respond.  The difference, however between hypnosis and physical practice is immense.    The reason for that is that while in hypnosis, the person who is seeking to improve their skills is only visualizing and practicing the “perfect” technique.  There is no muscle memory formed from making errant shots.  The new pathways through the brain only know the “right” way.

So, my coaches and teachers were indeed wrong.  Practice does not make perfect.  Only PERFECT practice makes perfect.  And perfect practice, be it in stress management, sports improvement, mindfulness meditation, or weight management, can best be attained through hypnosis.