Life is a practiced act. Everything you do, think, and feel, is like a practice. The term "practice" usually refers to those things we wish to do better. We practice a musical instrument or a physical skill. We don't usually think of practicing virtues, character traits or emotional states. But there is great power in thinking this way because it provides a choice point. If you consider whatever you are doing, thinking, feeling, or experiencing at the moment as a practice, you can then ask yourself, "is this something I want to get better at?"
For example, my computer is overtaxed, operating slowly, and freezing. I get frustrated, and catch myself impatiently denouncing the machine. In that moment, I'm practicing frustration and arguing with my computer. I stop, ask myself, "do I want to get better at being easily frustrated?" The answer obviously is no. Or, I may ask, "do I want to get better at arguing with machines?" The answer again is no.
The technique is simple: The basic pattern is catch and correct. You catch yourself in the act and then make a correction. But there are a few steps between the catch and the correct. Catching yourself is the moment of awareness that often occurs when we recognize our own behavior or state. Asking, "Is this something I want to get better at?" is a form of dissociation and allowing you to separate from the experience. You can increase the dissociation by changing one word in the question: "Is that something I want to get better at?"
If the answer to the question is "no," follow this up with a correction -- a new choice and a new direction. How would I prefer to be? Then you do your best to be the way you want to be remembering that it is also a practice and, even if you do not do it well, you are practicing in order to get better at it.
You can practice this art in daily life by simply catching yourself randomly throughout the day, noticing your behavior, thoughts, and feelings, and asking the question, "Is this something I want to get better at?" With practice, you will find there are many good states and behaviors that you can enjoy improving in life as well as those things you wish to change.
How could you use this idea in your life? What "practices" might you change?
Share your ideas and comments below