ICE Book Review – The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life

By Rob Cooney (@EMEducation)

The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life
By: Tom Sterner

Bookstore shelves are filled with tomes promising quick success and increased productivity. If only it were as simple as reading a book! The Practicing Mind comes at the problem from a different angle, yet one that should be familiar to many educators: the need to practice. As the author suggests, “life is a journey that requires us…to master one skill after another.” He goes on to explain how learning how to quickly develop “skills” with the least amount of effort, perhaps even to enjoy the process, is a skill as well. It’s a skill many of us have yet to develop.

One of the biggest problems? Our western focus on a goal and constant need to achieve that goal. He argues that in stepping back, focusing on the present moment and the process, we can relearn the joy of learning and increase our odds of long-term success.

Practice, of course, isn’t always easy. Many of us can recall times where we had to practice a skill and it felt difficult, or boring, or hard. If you’ve mastered a skill, it’s likely that now you enjoy practice, perhaps even become totally immersed in the activity. Such is the nature of learning a skill. Unfortunately, for many, the process focus takes a back seat the idea of learning specificity, or worse, to achieving a pre-determined goal, at which point, further learning is forgotten.

Mr. Sterner continues this exploration of the practicing mind, focusing on the development of key skills that influence practice and development, from reflection to mindful practice. There are many relevant takeaways that overlap with the development of medical expertise. I think there many also be takeaways that can help us reframe our focus from product to process and potentially address our own wellness.

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