Practice Makes Permanent

I once had a professor whose favourite reminder was “practice makes permanent.”  He prompted us constantly that what you practice is what becomes permanent; not perfect.  I understood what he meant and why he made the distinction.  To this day, I can still see his face and hear his voice making that statement. 

The core of practice makes permanent is the connection between the brain and the body.  The process of executing any kind of movement engages the sensory system, which relays information to the brain, which in turn draws on previous experience and translates that into an action command and the body responds.  The flow of information between the sensory system and brain is constant and new actions create new sensory data which begins the process again.

This is the foundation of practice makes permanent.  Neurons that fire together, wire together.  The more you practice something, the stronger the connections are between those neurons and the easier it is for the brain to know what to do.  With time and repetition, you build a communication super highway for your muscles to execute the task.

In the first three years of life, the brain develops a map of itself.  Through movement, sensory input, and reflex integration, people develop their initial neural connections.  The stronger the experience, which includes multiple inputs, and the more frequently it is repeated, the white matter of the brain grows more quickly – literally creating bigger brains.

Brains continue to learn and grow throughout the life cycle.  From ages 4 to 12 the brain undergoes rapid development, creating innumerable neural connections.  Ages 12 to adult the brain continues to grow and staying physically and mentally active protects and continues the development of the mental map.

The initial attempts to learn new steps can be challenging.  Whatever the age and stage of development, new steps and skills require the brain to create new maps, to recruit, fire, and wire synapses together.  They will, however, begin to forge a pathway and eventually a super highway, if we are willing to do the work required (i.e., practice) to make it permanent.

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