The Practical Art of Self-Correction

Self-Awareness and Myelin
Author: Danielle Graham
Photographer: Wikipedia

The print issue of SuperConsciousness Magazine in spring 2010 focused on “Educating the Future” and featured an interview with author and investigative journalist Daniel Coyle. His then recently published book, The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown, featured research showing traits employed by several schools and training camps located all over the world that consistently produced world-class performers and athletes.

One particular characteristic Coyle discerned was a training technique he referred to as “deep practice.” He stated:

One element of it [deep practice] is “chunking,” when you’re breaking your practice down into the smallest component down and working on one aspect at a time and then adding those chunks together. That pattern where you’re breaking it down, slowing it down, speeding it up, making a mistake and fixing that mistake, looks horrible and ineffective and slow, but in fact it’s not. This ugly piecemeal, broken up practice is calculated to produce ten-times-faster learning than normal practice. This doesn’t make sense until we see it as an act of construction: You’re actually building a neural circuit.

And when it comes to these neural circuits, specifically the outer layer of a neuron — the myelin sheath — the neurological sciences confirm that the thicker the myelin sheath, the greater the skill.

Essentially, the myelin sheath functions as the “electrical insulating layer” around the neuron: A thicker sheath allows a greater electrical signal — or information flow — between neurons. Large neural-networks built from neural circuits of myelin-rich neurons, equals developed skills.

Coyle reports that the correlation between deep practice and the development and strengthening of the myelin sheath is observed when a person “practices the right way” which is simply this: When we are at the edge of our ability, and making errors — we should then stop ourselves as soon as we are aware and correct those errors.

It is through this self-initiated, the self-directed effort of slowly and persistently recognizing then correcting those errors that substantive amounts of myelin are developed — in greater levels and at greater speed! Coyle states that just ten minutes of “deep practice” produces more myelin than hours and hours of shallow, inattentive practice.

Essentially, the myelin sheath functions as the “electrical insulating layer” around the neuron: A thicker sheath allows a greater electrical signal — or information flow — between neurons. Large neural-networks built from neural circuits of myelin-rich neurons, equals developed skills.

Self-Motivation, Self-Initiation, Self-Correction Are the Keys

Behavioral scientists and mindfulness-based clinicians recognize the veracity of self-correction — not only as a way to develop new skills, but also to override self-defeating patterns of habitual thinking and behavior that prevents us from excelling in any aspect of our lives.

As a teacher or coach training for superior ability, it is not enough to merely respond to a student’s practice by praising or correcting. In fact, training limited to that style creates unnecessary dependence on external feedback. Effective training in any discipline requires the coach or teacher to assist the student in developing self-awareness as a precursor for inspired self-motivation, self-initiation, and ultimately self-correction.

Thus, trainers who inspire exceptionally talented individuals to high levels of mastery assist the student in developing an acute sense of self-awareness. The momentum of self-motivation occurs when their feedback reflects perceived improvements instead of the more common “good” or “bad” comments.

Behavioral scientists and mindfulness-based clinicians recognize the veracity of self-correction — not only as a way to develop new skills, but also to override self-defeating patterns of habitual thinking and behavior that prevents us from excelling in any aspect of our lives.

Dr Monica Frank at ExcelAtLife.com says it best: “Usually when we teach skills, our response to the student’s performance involves correcting errors or giving general praise, neither of which are conducive to teaching the student how to self-correct.”

The delicate transfer of the trainer’s observation and awareness over time to the student increases their capacity for self-awareness. This then inspires the student towards the self-motivation to self-initiate internal self-correction, and is the key to the brain’s ability to increase the thickening of the neural myelin sheath.

Daniel Coyle’s observation and study of the many schools internationally that employ such training led him to make the significant connection between self-correction and the brain’s myelin sheath. His report ultimately shows that learning the practical skill of self-correction enables anyone to develop world-class abilities.

Employing this knowledge into our lives, and teaching ourselves to develop the practical skill of self-correcting our thought processes, whether it be to learn a new skill, master an existing talent, or even perfect our own thinking by eliminating self-defeating thoughts, we then “super-develop” the brain’s neurological processes through the subsequent thickening of the myelin sheath. The self-initiated practice of self-aware driven self-correction exponentially increases our developing abilities, and sets the stage for even greater self and life experience and mastery.

Daniel Coyle’s observation and study of the many schools internationally that employ such training led him to make the significant connection between self-correction and the brain’s myelin sheath. His report ultimately shows that learning the practical skill of self-correction enables anyone to develop world-class abilities.


Danielle Graham was a founding editor and eventual editor-in-chief of SuperConsciousness Magazine. Her background includes careers in international classical music performance and recording session work in NYC and LA, competitive karate, scientific experimental research and publication, organic farming, brokering, and food industry consulting, and most recently journeying into Alaska’s wilderness.