HOW TO NAIL THAT SLEIGHT (It’s Not About Goals!)

Getting frustrated with practice

Written by Steve Faulkner

March 23, 2021

If you’re anything like me, you’ll know how frustrating (and of course, fun!) learning a sleight can be. Sometimes they come fast, but often, well, not so much. 

When we stop seeing progress, it can be so tempting to quit. This is because the human brain isn’t very good at dealing with long-term goals, meaning that motivation can wane if we can’t see short-term improvement. 

It’s Not All About Goals.

In the world of performance and development training, of which I am a part, there is a lot of talk about goals. And for good reason. You need to know where you are going. If you’ve ever started learning a move from a book without really understanding what it looks like, you’ll know what I mean. Often, only when I see how cool something looks will I move forward into action and start putting the work in. It can be so motivating until it’s not. Goals are great, but they can do more harm than good if we fixate on them. 

How To Stay Motivated.

For years I tried to maintain a health and fitness practice but would fall off the wagon repeatedly. It was all very exciting at the beginning, and I would feel better pretty quickly. But when that became normality and progress slowed, I would quit. Every time I started again, it seemed like such a colossal task to lose that weight and get back to fitness. This was often the same with any discipline: work, practice, learning, reading, quitting certain foods. But then something changed. Though I look rather old, I’m the most healthy I’ve ever been, and I love magic more than I ever have. Why? Because I forgot about goals!

Focus On Process

Well, kind of. Of course, you need to decide what it is you want to achieve. But after you have made that decision, begin to work out how you are going to achieve it. The process. What do you need to do to be able to achieve it? With magic and health, it’s pretty simple. 

I decided that I would participate in some kind of exercise every other day for a minimum of 40 minutes. At the time I made this decision, It was the gym. I kept that up for three years. Then covid hit, and it’s either been yoga, running or cycling. It’s a habit. And this is how you get to learn your sleighs. 

So let’s say that you want to learn the Spread Cull. You get your download and realise that you’re really struggling. Your cards are not playing. Pretty soon, the idea of culling a Four Of A Kind seems like a huge mountain to climb. That goal seems way more daunting. But you still really want to learn it. 

Here’s The Plan

Turn up. Decide how much you’re going to practise, and just turn up and enjoy the process. Put some music on or a podcast and be in the moment. Work on what you have now and trust that repetition means improvement. Take the heat off of yourself. Focus on the process. Commit. It may be 10 minutes a day for a week.

Then review and reflect: Do you need more or less practice? More or less frequency? Treat it as an experiment to be adjusted. Play. Then check back in with your goal every now and then, now you know how long it may take, and decide if it’s still for you at this moment. 

There’s nothing wrong with realising that it’s not worth your time right now. But make sure that decision is evidence-based rather than just a belief caused by frustration. This move took me a long time, but things sped up when I focused on the process. 

Sometimes I don’t want to practice, sometimes I don’t want to exercise. But I made a commitment, and by staying in the moment and not fixating on the task ahead, I do it. 

Do it. And if every now and then you don’t. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re not a failure; you’re a human. Turn up tomorrow. 

Thanks for reading. 

Check out the whole course here 

Learn the most powerful move in card magic here

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  1. Brian Foley

    Absolutely on point! I decided to learn the one-handed perfect faro. Why? It’s complicated. It does have practical applications, but not a lot of them. That’s not the point for me. The point was to see what I could learn by dedicating at least an hour a day to one single move for a long time. It was “the journey, not the destination” And it’s been great. It’s taken me ten months of practice (with a “c”) but I’m finally at over 90% success rate. I’ve learned how to practice, how to concentrate, how to get into the “zone.” I can use these new skills for myriad other things. So, as far as I’m concerned, Steve’s advice is right on.

    • Steve Faulkner

      Great example and yep I love this feeling too 😊.
      Practise is the UK spelling of the verb 😉


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