When you first start learning a new skill, a lot of the actual execution is forced. Your coach shows you the recommended way of doing it and you work towards copying it. Over time, however, you learn to develop your own style. You make the switch from forced to natural.
This switch takes time though. If you attempt to find your natural style too quickly, it doesn’t really work – forced execution of the right way to do something is important. That said, having a forced style for too long kills it as well.
This concept came alive in my mind when I thought of my attempts at public speaking. When I started public speaking, I tried very hard to be many things – forceful, funny, inspirational, loud, and impactful. A couple of these attempts worked but most didn’t – yet, this was an important part of the training. Forcing these different personas and styles helped me understand what worked and what didn’t. I’ll never sign up to be the funny guy now – that’s not me. I also know you can’t force inspiration and impact. You just have to stand there, put yourself out there, and just be. If you are inspired yourself, it will show. No need to force it – perfection is overrated while being yourself definitely isn’t.
I was reminded of this shift as I was re-learning swimming. I needed to remind myself to get rid of my not-so-good self-taught “natural” style and force the correct style. I am still going through the process – swimming still feels a bit forced as I seek to make the right way subconscious. But, I’ve learnt to accept this tension between forced and natural – it’s part of a good process… and I’ve learnt to appreciate the importance of a good process more than ever these days.