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The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus into Your Life
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The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus into Your Life

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  5,606 ratings  ·  457 reviews
Present moment awareness is an essential ingredient in life if one expects to experience any degree of authentic peace and contentment. It has been acknowledged for centuries as the cornerstone of spiritual awakening in all traditions of Eastern thought. In the West, however, it is still a relatively unrecognized concept of living. The Western mind is always restless, neve ...more
Paperback, 170 pages
Published March 6th 2006 by Mountain Sage (first published 2006)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  5,606 ratings  ·  457 reviews


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Francis Norton
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
As a procrastinator and a bit of a dreamer I am finding this short book incredibly helpful. Thomas Sterner uses his own life story as a musician, piano tuner, parent and student to present an effective and rather liberating approach to practice. I say liberating because because Sterner advises using a detached, non-judgemental approach to practice feedback which, paradoxically perhaps, makes it easier to keep yourself happily immersed in the practice process.

I was lucky enough to go skiing a co
...more
David Harper
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: improve
I enjoyed this book as a review of some familiar fundamentals that are so HARD to actually put into practice (pun intended). The book celebrates deliberate practice with themes of presence (mindfulness), awareness, and non-judgment. Highlights for me included:

* Mastery is self-control and self-control requires an awareness of our thoughts: "If you are not in control of your thoughts, then you are not in control of yourself. Without self-control, you have no real power, regardless of whatever els
...more
Sanjay Gautam
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal!
This book is great. It's not merely some ordinary self help. It's actually a deeply spiritual book that provides truly meaningful insights about your mind and real self.
Chad Kettner
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-improvement
"The Practicing Mind" is a short, no-fluff book that offers powerful lessons on self-discipline and better practice.

My key takeaways:

-If you slow down and act deliberately, the results will come.

-Setting goals is a great way to drive yourself forward, but never feel unsatisfied with where you're at... enjoy where you're at, be thankful for what you've accomplished, and know that you're exactly where you should be in your skills based on the time and effort you've spent to get there.

-Mindfulness,
...more
Jamil
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Like so many other books that fall into the self-help category, I thought this was needlessly repetitive and long. The author could have accomplished the same thing in a long essay. It feels like a rotten thing to say but it is true. Unfortunately, in our current environment, there is far too much to read and not enough time. Books should only be written if they achieve something that cannot be achieved in a shorter medium.

Still, I did manage to identify a few interesting lessons (though most p
...more
Amir Tesla
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: productivity
Being disciplined is a lifestyle, and this book provides practical steps towards cultivating this life-changing skill.
Grumpus
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, brain
This is a book I listened to for free on Audible Channels. It’s ironic because I usually can’t listen to an audiobook while working because I cannot focus solely upon it and this book is all about focusing upon what you are doing at THIS moment. Surprisingly, I was able (at least I feel I was able) to multi-task, listening and working. Granted, this is a slow time of the year and the work right now is not too arduous.

Again, this is another book where there isn't anything new. I’ve been on a litt
...more
CP (Wayne)
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
Thomas M. Sterner wasn’t kidding when he said:

“[He] wanted [his] book to be the one that you could pick up at any time and open to any page and start reading. [He] wanted [his] readers to be able to remember it’s few ideas without much effort and without the need to flip back through pages to find them.”

It is exactly how I felt about this book. It is literally something you can pick up anytime and gain wisdom from right away.

Reading this book was an incredibly empowering experience. It refreshed
...more
Sir Readalot
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. It's short, concise and simple to understand.

The book talks about how one should be mindful of the process, and not waste their time/energy focusing only on the final product.
Leo Polovets
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book about how to approach practice and goals. Sometimes we miss the joy and beauty inherent in the process of pursuing a target, and instead fixate on the target itself. (Am I there yet? Why am I not there yet? Why is progress so slow? Maybe I should just quit.)

The author’s main suggestions are to practice awareness and non-judgement. You should be aware of how you’re doing and continually correct your efforts so that you’re moving closer and closer to your goal. However, you should not
...more
Mario Tomic
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read on focusing the process and enjoying the journey toward your goals. The big idea of the book is that all of life is practice in one form or another. And that real peace and contentment in our lives come from realizing that life is a process to engage in, a journey down a path that we can choose to experience. When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. ...more
Davuth
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books you should keep reading from time to time. It's not because it's hard to understand, but because living in this world nowadays, we need to keep reminding ourselves that life doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't appear to me as something groundbreaking that I never know about, but I really enjoy reading it from his perspective. It just feels peaceful and calm.
David Mansaray
This book is one you won't want to miss if you're dedicated to becoming good at just about anything. I've struggled with various endeavours over the years, and while I've made progress, I feel I could have made more progress if I had read this book earlier. What the author shares is not new information, but he makes that clear right from the start. This book offers a new frame to look at the issue of practice and staying in the moment, which in this context are almost synonymous if you want to i ...more
Ted
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-improvement
This is a great short book about focusing and being present. It's written by a lay person which m, to me, is precise why it's more applicable than those who are written by mental health professionals. I'm dubiously skeptical of mindfulness that has been "codified" by therapists. It defeats the entire purpose in my opinion.

So it was refreshing to read this about a real person who, through trial and error, learned to adopt and implement being present and mindful into his daily life. This isn't gro
...more
Charlie
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: performance
To judge the book by its subtitle, "Bringing Discipline and Focus into you Life," it's a start, but only a start. The author has a nice style, blending autobiography, warm advice, eastern philosophy, performance psychology, and some business applications. The first two chapters make some good points, and "The Four 'S' Words" contains some good practical advice. Mostly, though, it's repetitive and doesn't go into much depth. There is better out there on this topic.
Rachel
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
process is more important than product, and staying in the present yields great results, and i know that these things are absolutely true! but as it turns out, i'm a ding-dong who would rather look at pictures of baby animals on my phone for an hour than achieve my dreams and goals.

that's why i am also a ding-dong who reads lots of self-help books that remind me to practice my guitar
Lizzie
Jul 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
If you can get past the author’s intellectual elitism (“I don’t watch TV because there’s nothing interesting on” and “I was mostly an A student”) and contradictory statements (“I was watching a TV show about snakes” and “I got a D in math”), then you might find is wide sweeping generalizations amusing.

I’ll save you the time in reading this book with a summation: Slow down and correct mistakes when you see them. Yup, great life lessons. Thanks.
AnneMarie
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I did like this book as a whole, but there were a few key concepts that were pushed by Sterner that I felt were up for debate. The whole premise of this book is to tear down this idealistic sense of "perfect", of avoiding the unnecessary expenditure of energy towards worrying and stress, but then, as I've read in other books like this, the author makes a statement (unknowingly or knowingly) in which he perpetuates the very standards he has set himself in opposition of; Sterner uses the very "pro ...more
Alexander Fitzgerald
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've never been a big fan of zen or meditation. I pass on pretty much everything in the genre, and am rarely impressed when I do pick up a title. This book changed all my expectations as to what a book in this genre could do.

Thomas. M. Sterner makes a wonderful case for how we are all practicing at all times, and how our conduct during every activity effects us through life. His prose is eloquent but forceful. He simply omits needless words. It's stirring how someone who claims to not know much
...more
Konrad
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
I agree with certain aspects of this book, like the need to become more focussed on the process, but i don't agree on all this talk about Eastern Psychology/Philosophy (which seems to be the latest trend on which to make money), first of all being in the PRESENT, is so vague,we can't be completely in the present and that is a good thing, but i think that rather than being in the PRESENT it's good to specify "Be as close to the present as possible",
second this thing about not judging is also ver
...more
Timothy Chklovski
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


Great, powerful message, clearly delivered.

The style seed earnest but a bit pedantic (although I would not know how to do better)
Worth reading and thinking about when you have at least a couple of unrushed weeks to digest and try it out. Or read it now to plant a seed of discontent with goal/product (vs. process) oriented thinking.
I'd love to know more about effectiveness of the approach in science. It seems Feynman used to use this kind of approach to get over burnout, and it is used in coach
...more
Joseph
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book contains mostly personal observations and experiences rather than a multi-subject research study, thus is akin to personal advice solely from the author’s perspective. There are good guidelines for getting on track in terms of consistent performance, but it is more a result of author's own brainstorming than a well-rounded list of possibilities from different sources. As such, convincing the reader of the validity and repeatability of the contents depends on the author’s ability to per ...more
Greg
Nov 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
I can't understand all the 5 star reviews. This book seems to be a bunch of random thoughts and ideas pieced together without any organization. Perhaps I expect too much, but when I read a non-fiction self-help book like this I expect the author to describe the problem to be solved, a hypothesis of how to solve the problem, supporting evidence, summary, conclusion. Instead this book is written in a style I can only describe as stream of consciousness. The book cannot decide whether it is a book ...more
Matthew Trevithick
Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a very enjoyable book written by a wise man. Oozes with Zen Buddhism and is little more than some simple and practical thoughts about awareness and changing your thinking away from a 'goal / result - oriented' mindset towards a 'process' mindset which brings enjoyment and peace (versus insecurity / thinking everything will be better if you can just achieve something or own something) and improves your self (via new thinking). Given that this was written before the spate of books on habit ...more
Raghavy
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book has appeared in my life at the perfect time .. as I am currently revising for exams. It will help you to understand the importance of the process to your goals rather than the goal itself (which is the opposite of what society teaches us to value). It remind me of a great quote by Henry David Thoreau who said “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” :)
Lisa Aguilera
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


Like many other things I've been reading lately really pushes meditation. I thought it was pretty cool where they talked about the minds of Asia archers and how they focused on the process of drawing the bow and releasing it rather than the end result. And how western minds focus more on hitting the bullseye, yet the Asians were the ones winning.
Anand
Aug 06, 2015 added it
Quite a short book with really good advice on how to get things done or even get better at something. Simple easy read with relatable anecdotes to back up his theory.
Karen
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Habits are learned. Choose them wisely.”

I've highlighted so much of this book. I picked this book up because someone at work recommended it to me and even though it's a tiny book, it took me a while to read it because I knew pretty much right away that this is one of those books that I need to read slowly to keep reminding myself of what I know to be true but can't seem to remember when it matters.

"....life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort to refine the
...more
Red
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had a really hard time getting through this. This falls into the category of self-help books that has an interesting idea but then has to find 150 other pages to make it book-sized.

I would have loved this at 50 pages.

Also I'd watch a documentary about a professional piano tuner, I found those stories fascinating.
Himanshu Bhanushali
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is life changing book for me . Whole lot years I was focusing on Product this is where I was going wrong not getting result, being frustrated with goal setting. Now after reading this book changed my mindset focusing on process and being aware.
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“Progress is a natural result of staying focused on the process of doing anything.” 18 likes
“Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. In fact, life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort of refining our motions. When the proper mechanics of practice are understood, the task of learning something new becomes a stress-free experience of joy and calmness, a process which settles all areas in your life and promotes proper perspective on all of life’s difficulties.” 13 likes
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