Research has shown that we humans use a tremendous amount of our brains in spaces beyond our conscious awareness. Learning is a process that is far broader than simply the conscious practice of new skills.
I have found many situations in my personal experience where, after having worked on a problem extensively one day, I have woken up the next day to find I can easily solve it. I have also noticed this same forward progress between one day of physical training and a future day of application. Many of the gains occur in some space between conscious practice sessions.
I’ve found this unconscious learning to be useful for how I approach challenging practice sessions. Instead of feeling that I need to solve a particular problem in a given period, I instead see my responsibility as simply that of fully exploring the problem. If I have a particular skill I want to refine, my goal is simply to set my mind on the types of refinements I need, not necessarily achieving them in that particular time. This frees me from some of the frustration that can come when I am repeatedly failing at achieving a particular outcome. Now I can dig into the challenge further, knowing that I’m giving my subconscious more data to process and work on in the background later. My practice sessions are now as much about setting up my subconscious to do heavy lifting as they are about making progress in the session itself.
This perspective has not only made me aware of the bigger picture of how learning works but it has also allowed me to approach difficult training challenges in a new way. I recommend it.