Imagine what it would be like to not speak for ten days, to not interact with another person during that time, to simply observe your own breath and body sensations and then consciously decide not to respond to the cravings and aversions that manifest. Sounds daunting, right? Maybe even a bit crazy.

Recently, my monkey mind and I attended a Vipassana retreat where I practiced this form of meditation for ten days straight. Sometimes a “little bit of crazy” is exactly what we need to become better human beings.

I’m drawn to this particular form of meditation because of its focus on learning to break subconscious patterns and see things as they really are. I want to learn how to communicate better, how to connect deeper and how to break behaviors that are no longer supportive.

With Vipassana meditation, instead of mindlessly giving in to those gut-punch reactions that make our brains itch, we simply observe these patterns and then consciously choose to ignore them. By not responding to ingrained behaviors, change is allowed to occur. Patterns, created over a lifetime, can disappear over time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens through practice and observation.

Most people are shocked to learn that I practice two hours of meditation every single day. Sometimes I feel that it’s still not enough. Sitting on my pillow allows me to work through my patterns and begin my day in a more mindful state.

Everyone knows that if you want to accomplish something… anything… you’ll need to repeat that something over and over again. Practice is essential to becoming your best self.

doug-savageThink of the artist. It would be extremely rare for a person to stumble upon a random box of acrylics and paint a masterpiece. Brush strokes are practiced. Canvas after canvas gets recycled. An artist’s eye becomes trained to what others may not see as they rush about their day. It can take years (even decades) to master his or her art. Even then, the artist constantly grows and evolves.

Remember when you learned to play the violin/trumpet/clarinet/drums/accordion in junior high? My guess is that you didn’t pick it up and immediately crank some Beethoven on your first try. You had to practice. You had to fumble around with the notes. While other kids were out chasing the ice cream truck, you were in your room practicing.

Jacob Riis, the famous Danish-American social reformer, once wrote:

“Look at the stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

When I think about my own goals in life, becoming the best graphic designer I can possibly be is of the utmost importance. Doing it in a conscious way is what allows me to expand as an artist and as a human being.

I believe that we become better at what we do by observing these four practices:

1. HONORING TIME

Much l like the stonecutter, every day that I crack away at my work makes me better than the day before.

2. SHARPENING SKILLS

I practice some form of design work every day, whether for a client or for myself. Some of it (okay, most of it) is never seen by another human being… but every day I’m creating. This sharpens my skills and reinforces my evolution as an artist.

3. KEEN OBSERVATION

Searching for art and beauty wherever I go is a practice I find absolutely necessary to my work. Old buildings. Trash in the gutter. Flowers growing out of cracks. The depth locked behind the eyes of the person handing me my tea each morning. It matters. And it makes me better at what I do.

4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS

By working on my relationships, I become more relatable, compassionate and open to new ideas. Serving my clients more good work to go out into the world. By consciously focusing on the needs and desires of others, I learn how to build trust and foster ongoing relationships.

What about you? What are your intentional practices? Maybe you mail out one handwritten note per day. Or write 750 words each morning to keep your storytelling skills sharp. How do your practices help your business grow?

What about those times when you don’t feel like doing anything, much less practicing the work that will make your business thrive? I wrote a blog post about it that you might enjoy, How to Stay Motivated When Life Happens.

What tips and tricks to you have for sticking with your practice?