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Why Practice Is More Important Than Talent

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Sure, "practice makes perfect" is a total cliche. But now Northwestern University researchers are saying it, too. With good reason: They recently found that singing (which most people think is a "you have it or you don't" skill) is something most people can master with the right amount of repetition, according to a new study published in Music Perception.

The study looked at three groups: kindergartners, sixth-graders, and college-age adults. Participants were asked to sing a single-pitch sequence. When researchers followed up, kindergartners and late elementary school students showed the most improvement, likely because of their consistent exposure to music classes at school. The adults, on the other hand, weren't regularly singing, so their skills stayed the same or got worse.

Couldn't care less about karaoke? The theory doesn't only apply to budding Beyonces; it applies to your fitness goals, too. Mastering a handstand in yoga? Learning to dunk a basketball? Signing up for your first swim meet? Improving your 5K time? All: Mission Possible. And if you're not amazing in the beginning, don't ever say, "I'm just not made for this!" You won't feel that way once you practice.

"Set a goal slightly out of reach, write it down, and make training part of your schedule every day," says Cindra Kamphoff, PhD, director of the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology at Minnesota State University. Ready to make it happen? Here are 9 Steps to Reach Any Goal.