Goldilocks and Deliberate Practice

What does the story of Goldilocks have to do with deliberate practice and the Habits of Mind?

Anders Erricson is a cognitive psychologist that has made his career out of studying the acquisition of excellence – successful people. Through his research he came to recognise that successful people engage in a very special form of practice, something he called deliberate practice.

Deliberate Practice (sometimes referred to as Purposeful Practice) was made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” who popularized the 10 000 hour rule (see youtube clip) required to achieve excellence in practically any field. It turns out that it takes about 10 years and 10 000 hours of practice, to become really good at something.

So what’s special about deliberate practice? Most people when they practice engage in what might more accurately be called rehearsal. They rehearse what they can already do. People who become truely successful however work in what we call the “Goldilocks Zone” – this is the zone of practice that represents challenge, it’s not too easy, not too hard, but “just right”.

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And what does this have to do with Habits of Mind? Well quite a lot actually. Anders Erricson pointed out that successful people push themselves out of their comfort zone, and into the Goldilocks Zone. It’s during this sort of practice that they encounter problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent. Remember that phrase from our exploration of the definition of the Habits of Mind?

So, what we recognise here is that those people who have become successful – in practically any field – continually challenged themselves with problems the solutions to which were not immediately apparent. However, in order to successfully meet these challenges Art Costa and Bena Kallick’s research shows they must have first developed their Habits of Mind!

The Habits of Mind are intimately woven together with the process of success. To become successful you must constantly challenge yourself. To succeed at these challenges you must have well developed Habits of Mind.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10 000 hour rule



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