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The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life Paperback – March 1, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 293 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Like many of us, Thomas M Sterner was enrolled in music lessons when he was a child. He was not an amazing prodigy and he didn t enjoy the lessons any more than the rest of us did. Fortunately, Sterner s love for music was strong enough that he eventually returned to his study of piano and became a successful musician. Love of music, however, doesn t account for his success as a piano technician, responsible for providing perfect instruments for performances by world-class musicians. Nor does love of music explain his success on the golf course. The common denominator in these endeavors is practice, and the point made by Sterner in this book is that Everything in life worth achieving requires practice .... [Practice is] a process which settles all areas in your life and promotes proper perspective on all of life s difficulties. As the author explains, everything we do is practice; why not embrace this and learn strategies and mindsets that allow us to practice effectively? It will come as no surprise that Sterner urges us to break our addiction to multitasking and instant gratification. Mindfulness, attention to detail, and being in the moment are terms we ve all heard and most of us can agree that a single point of attention greatly improves the chances of mastering any task. Sterner, who deliberately set out to determine the mechanics leading to mastery, provides some insight into how we can go about breaking the habit of distraction by changing and broadening our perspective. In keeping with the idea of simplicity and focus, the author admits that there are not many ideas in this book. Happily it doesn t take many ideas to uncover a workable truth, and anecdotes from Sterner s own life seem to confirm that he has pinpointed a finely workable idea. One of the most interesting sections of the book deals with his conscious decision to work as slowly as possible on a day when he felt fractured and rushed. Preparing pianos for performances is a job that, to most of us, seems unbearably tedious. Sterner s determination to create even more tedium and delay is, he admits, counter-intuitive; yet by denying haste, he finds that he is able to accomplish his work better and in even less time than usual. Sterner s voice is sincere, his advice grounded in believable and valuable experience. In The Practicing Mind, he shows us how to incorporate mindfulness in ways we all can emulate. He suggests exercises to aid in the process of practice, and demonstrates the joy of discipline. Thomas Sterner is a man who finds lessons in real life, an ordinary master of life, the amiable guru next door from whom we can borrow butter or wisdom, as we choose. --Deborah Adams, reviewer for Bookpleasures --Deborah Adams, Reviewer for Bookpleasures

In a society of immediate gratification, Thomas M. Sterner's book THE PRACTICING MIND almost parodies itself. Designed to be a primer for slowing down, becoming more aware of the present moment, and increasing self-discipline and focus, Sterner's brilliance shines through in the brevity of this complex book's pages. Less than a hundred pages long, this tiny but intense book delivers enough information to contemplate and apply for a lifetime. THE PRACTICING MIND enables those of us immersed in the Western world's constant motion and hubbub to slow down, check within, and grow. The nine chapters detail in depth the steps to mastering any skill or achieving any goal. Sterner clearly explains, through the use of colorful, vivid examples, how mastery comes from practice through repetition - whether we're talking about learning a new habit, achieving a professional goal, or improving one's golf game. Each chapter begs to be mulled over, internalized, and applied. The principles sometimes overlap, enabling the reader to make deeper connections and realizations as they progress. In a gentle and encouraging manner, Sterner not only illuminates the "how's" - the process - he also enables the reader to see that not only are growth and change possible, but "with deliberate and repeated effort, progress is inevitable." This book is already a favorite of mine, highlighted and scribbled in, and slowly, patiently, I'm witnessing the result of reading this material in my daily life. This book is a must-read for anybody who is tired of today's widely accepted non-stop frenetic pace, for anybody sick of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and out of balance, or for anybody who wouldn't even know where to find the roses, much less bother to take the time to stop and smell them. --Tammy Cook, Reviewer for Roundtable Reviews --Tammy Cook, Reviewer for Roundtable Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In those times when we want to acquire a new skill or face a formidable challenge we hope to overcome, what we need most are patience, focus, and discipline, traits that seem elusive or difficult to maintain. In this enticing and practical book, Thomas Sterner demonstrates how to learn skills for any aspect of life, from golfing to business to parenting, by learning to love the process.

Early life is all about trial-and-error practice. If we had given up in the face of failure, repetition, and difficulty, we would never have learned to walk or tie our shoes. So why, as adults, do we often give up on a goal when at first we don’t succeed? Modern life’s technological speed, habitual multitasking, and promises of instant gratification don’t help. But in his study of how we learn (prompted by his pursuit of disciplines such as music and golf), Sterner has found that we have also forgotten the principles of practice — the process of picking a goal and applying steady effort to reach it. The methods Sterner teaches show that practice done properly isn’t drudgery on the way to mastery but a fulfilling process in and of itself, one that builds discipline and clarity.

By focusing on “process, not product,” you’ll learn to live in each moment, where you’ll find calmness and equanimity. This book will transform a sense of futility around learning something challenging into an attitude of pleasure and willingness.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 100 pages
  • Publisher: Mountain Sage Publishing; 1st edition (March 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977657205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977657209
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (293 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although I have bought and read literally hundreds of self help books in all categories through Amazon, the Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner is by far the 1st book that has compelled me to write my very first Amazon review.

There are many things that make this book stand out. It is very short, with absolutely, no-fluff or fillings, with the result that every word and every phrase really counts. Sterner's tone is also very down to earth and easy to understand without the use of any pretentious words. The book also has a few very good illustrations and stories to clarify the concepts presented in the book.

But what I think makes the book really practical is Sterner's realization and revelation that the key to success in any area of life is to acquire self-discipline through non-judgmental concentrated practice. Now, I know that this doesn't sound at all like a very profound or new revelation. But if you have been searching through hundreds of self help books - like I have been for the last few years - for the one key ( or system) that would enable me to become successful in improving my spirituality, my role as husband and father, time-management, health and exercise, writing, entrepreneurship and my other personal areas of interest that are of value to me - than the Practicing Mind will be of great value to you.

The Practicing Mind - is not a panacea to cure it all - but for me it turned out to be an amazingly simple and effective system to help me to systematically and measurably improve all the areas of interest in my life.
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Format: Paperback
Accomplished musician Thomas M. Sterner spent years learning to play the piano, but it was learning the sport of golf that taught him the dynamics of practice. Through observing his classmates, Sterner began to notice key motivational flaws that keep us in an unyielding state of confusion and discontent.

Today's over-stimulated society is focused on multitasking to the point that we are unable to concentrate on a single task. At any given time, our minds race from events in the past to worries about the future, but we are seldom living in the present. We measure success based on where we are in relation to our goals--or where advertising tell us we should be.

Sterner argues that the exhaustion we pile on ourselves to achieve is useless and self-defeating. We struggle to achieve perfection, but perfection is a myth, as our concept of perfection is constantly changing and moving away from us. To reach one milestone means that a dozen more are lining up in front of us. Sterner's solution is to live in the present and realize that practice is the goal, not the end result. Therefore, no matter what stage we are at, if we are practicing, we are always in a state of perfection and always successful.

Learning to take a step back from life, observe situations and direct our actions without invoking emotion make up Sterner's "DOC" (do, observe, correct) method. He encourages us to immerse ourselves in the process of practice rather than constantly comparing ourselves to the ideal. His four "S" words--simplify, small, short, and slow--help to bring attention to the present and provide the ability to enjoy life, which is one enormous process (or practice) in itself.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How would you like to learn to let go of anxiety? To get twice as much done with half the stress? To find a way to handle intimidating, unpleasant, or even boring tasks without having them take a bite out of you?
What if I told you that this would involve your investing a little over $10 and reading a 98-page book?
I thought you'd be interested.
Here's the deal. Sterner, a musician, a piano technician, a golfer, and an all-around sage (who would probably be a really interesting person to get to know) mined what he he had learned about repetitive tasks, like practicing music and golf swings (and, I guess, piano tuning and adjusting) and put it into a little book. No frills, no fancy language, no huffing and puffing about how profound he is, his message is, or anything else. And, at least from my experience and that of the other contented reviewers here, he got it right.
Um, sorry, that really should have been Got It Right. What he presents here is not novel - it's been around in recorded human wisdom for thousands of years - but it is simple, direct, and easy to apply. His basic principles are: attach to process (which you can control) not to outcomes (which you can't); accept yourself as embodying perfectly whatever stage of development you happen to be at - don't postpone happiness until you reach/have/attain something - break big projects down into tiny tasks; open yourself to learning from those around you and to joy, which is everywhere. He lays them out in simple, functional prose that anyone can read and understand.
This little book is a giant weapon in The War Against Suffering. Read it. Do what it tells you to do. Read it again. Do more of what it tells you to do. Praise it so that others will read it. Give it to your friends.
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