What Does It Mean to Be Practical?

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Growing up, we are told to dream big and reach for the stars.

But when challenges of the world come, we may be asked to be practical.

But what does being practical mean?

12 experts share their insights below.

Jason Patel

Jason Patel

Founder, Transizion

Practicality is all about three things: Vision, feedback, and compromise.

You have a vision for the future, something you want to do or accomplish. This means you’ll need to map out your goals, expected struggles and roadblocks. You will face hardships and pitfalls, which is a good thing. They’ll make you a better person.

As you face your obstacles, you need to learn from your failures and incorporate your lessons.

This part is all about feedback. Realize what you did wrong and make adjustments. Stubbornness is self-defeating. Write down your lessons and move forward, knowing you’ve encountered another learning experience.

As you continue your journey with the lessons you’ve learned, you’re now adjusting your vision with necessary feedback.

This is a compromise. It’s the adult thing to do. Putting your ego aside is the smart thing to do.

This is practicality. Making adjustments, learning valuable lessons, and putting your ego aside.

Nooria Khan

Nooria Khan

Content Marketer, SIA Enterprises

All our staff works remotely, and since all of them are millennials and Gen Z, we always want to ensure that they are able to switch from their recent (theoretical) educational environment to a more practical approach to work.

I am also passionate about using my own experiences, expertise, practice, logic and common sense to be practical when it comes to solving problems and learning new things.

To be practical means, making visible and concrete differences in your environment.

A practical person is emotionally stable and effectively takes control of its surroundings at the time of crises.

There are some features of a practical person discussed below:

  1. They have great organizational skills. You can always count on them when making arrangements as they have the best idea of on-ground realities.
  2. Their positive and determined attitude makes them stick to their goals and objectives. They can easily transform their ideas into actions, which makes them move closer to their goals.
  3. A practical person has a good sense of prioritizing work. Maintaining a logical order of tasks is their biggest strength.
  4. Confidence and ability to make rational decisions in life is the significant quality of a practical person. They don’t just assume things and act, but they know what they are doing.

Following four apps helps me to be 10X practical in daily routine:

  1. To keep distractions minimized, I use an app called Moment to keep track of my mobile screen time. So far I am doing pretty badly with it (as my screen time is A LOT) but it has made me more mindful of how I spend my time on my mobile.
  2. With our team, we are using Trello project management to stay organized. We use the Tim Ferriss Trello ProductivityTemplate to be able to make the most of Trello. (We are not fully used to it yet. More on this later).
  3. I also use the Pacifica app to improve focus and presence of mind. It is an app focused on meditations, the CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) etc and it also has good statistics on how much meditation I am doing each day. I am fond of this therapy and I find it useful. At times I also use some other meditation apps such as Calm and Insight Timer when I am in the mood for a different type of meditation.
  4. To maintain the 10X better logical order of my tasks, I use an app myself by Google called Tasks app which keeps my daily tasks In-order and prioritized.

Ketan Kapoor

Ketan Kapoor

Co-Founder | CEO, Mettl

We often say- ‘let’s be practical about this’ which in my opinion means to be aware of and in touch with the reality.

Some of us are in nature practical while others are unrealistic or unreasonable about things. When some people are planning something in their professional life or committing to something in the personal life, they often extrapolate or assume certain things to happen which might not be true in all scenarios.

For example, if you are practical you might have to take a course which is a departure from the traditional or social pleasantries. An individual, being practical, who isn’t able to meet his/her friends and acquaintances quite often due to extremely busy professional commitments may say it’s due to lack of time and be upfront about it.

While another person who is not practical will promise to meet people, sometimes overpromising, without actually keeping their promises.

Not being practical may sometimes be taken as not being accountable and not serious and being too practical can be presumed as being straightforward and rigid.

A good balance between practical and naive is a good thing to adopt.

You must know when to be naive when it comes to fulfilling your dreams and when to be practical as to know how to achieve your plans and objectives that will sustain your dreams. Also, since you are human being thriving in society, it’s good to be aware of people’s emotions as you really can’t be supremely practical all the time.

Andi Gray

Andi Gray

President, Strategy Leaders Inc.

Practical means it has to work in the real world.

Be specific and straightforward enough to implement. Broken down into simple enough steps that a newbie can understand and follow along. Preferably following a process so that results can be replicated.

Here’s an example.

Building a business is complex. Laying out the steps to get from one stage to the next, from one year to the next is a process.

  • Start with goals to define where you want to go. Get everyone’s input, not just top down – you’d be surprised how different viewpoints will contribute to a clearer picture.
  • Think about why you chose those goals, what makes them important, what’s the payoff for working so hard to accomplish those goals. Put notes on paper,
  • Then consider everything that stands in the way. Make a list with as much detail as possible. Don’t get intimidated. Just write things down, deal with them later on.
  • Start working the list of things that stand in the way, by writing down 1 – 3 solutions for each item – things that are specific, tangible and doable. Include a few crazy ideas that might seem hard to implement, for consideration later.
  • Review the list of solutions, decide which ones to keep, give each keeper a due date.
  • Review the list of to-dos and due dates to make sure you didn’t bunch too much stuff into a single timeframe. Check for critical paths – things that have to get done in a certain order.. Adjust dates if necessary.
  • Review progress with the list of next steps periodically and check off what’s done, re-date items that are past due.

There. That’s a practical approach to a complex business problem.

Lisa M. Brazelton

Lisa M. Brazelton

Author | Entrepreneur | Mindfulness Expert | CEO, Sage Prosperity Partners

Being practical does not mean being conservative. To be practical is to be in practice.

It is experimenting with what was once an idea and fulfilling it with action. Being practical connects the act of doing with perseverance and fortitude.

Life happens through movement and being practical brings everything into fruition. The art of life through practice becomes mastery. Being practical is a gift that continually brings confirmation to ideas and thoughts in practice.

Being practical means being aware of what it takes to manifest desires, ideas, and feelings through actionable steps.

When we believe in an idea, it remains an idea only until we decide to put it to the test by creating the steps to manifest the results. It’s like the farmer who prays for a fruitful crop; but at some point, he must get off his knees and sow the field.

Sowing the field denotes practicality, as the farmer will only see a great harvest from the act of doing, not by thinking (or praying) alone.

Being practical requires courage and determination.

Being practical does not guarantee the results intended, but the consistent act of movement and the openness to learn will always bring fulfillment. Thoughts, ideas, and desires will remain stagnant as theories or dreams until we pledge to put into practice the outcomes we believe in.

Melissa M Breyer

Lawyer, The Hive Law

In many cases, a practical person can be said to be “result-driven”.

They don’t care much about the brainstorming, visualization, or creative aspects of a project. With being result driven, this tends to mean that they’re very good at defining their goals and sticking to them.

And again, these goals aren’t some grandiose ideas; they’re obtainable, measured, and logical. Practical. I’d imagine that a good slogan for a practical person would be “keep it simple stupid.”

Further, practical people are more concerned with a things functionality rather than its appearances.

They see no use in trading in an out-dated (but fully working) vehicle for a newer model; that would be wasteful and totally ridiculous in their eyes! To a practical person, a thing’s importance isn’t determined on whether or not it looks nice. The ability to use it and accomplish a goal is the true test for them.

G. Brian Benson

G. Brian Benson

Author, Habits for Success

“Being practical” means many things to me.

First and foremost I think someone who is practical probably has a pretty good handle on life balance, a solid foundation to operate from and is able to live proactively and not reactively.

A practical person is probably routine oriented and also someone who is going to be fairly consistent in their methods and choices and not vie to far off of the road in regards to taking chances.

A practical person plays it safe for the most part and operates from a more conservative perspective and approach.

Allie McCormick, M.P.A.Allie McCornick

Blogger | Writer

To me, being practical means being totally realistic and taking into account your starting point, your personality/lifestyle, and the reason for your end goal.

If you resolve to lose weight, yet you have two busted knees and asthma, it’s completely impractical to have a goal of running a 26-mile marathon! A more practical solution would be to make healthier food choices, take up a lower-impact form of activity (like strength training), and reach your goal in a more realistic way.

If you drink more than you’d like and want to slow it down, yet you are shy, introverted and hate the idea of labeling yourself an addict in a group of strangers — attending AA may not be for you!

A more practical solution would be to start with things like online support groups, self-help books, and using social media for support to reach your goal in a more realistic (yet totally attainable) way.

Todd Betzold

Todd Betzold

Blog Manager, TCK Publishing

We live in a world where we are told to dream and have lofty goals. We are always working our butts off to improve our lives and get the most out of it that we can.

While the big dreams are nice, sometimes we have to be practical in certain situations. We need to focus on what we have and be okay with that.

We have a certain amount to work with on a daily basis, so be practical and use that amount and don’t overdo it. Live in our means, otherwise, we will crash and burn eventually.

Jennifer Hancock

Jennifer Hancock

Founder, Humanist Learning Systems

To me – it means to be reality-based.

I might be shooting for the sky – but my strategy to get there – is grounded in reality. It does not mean to limit myself. It is just a reminder that if I want to achieve my goals – I need to take practical reality-based steps to make it a reality.

Being practical means understanding that my ultimate objective is more important than the steps I take to get there – so I can innovate and be flexible in my plans.

Being practical means – not getting sidetracked on fun things that don’t get me to my ultimate objective. Of course, to be practical – means really understanding what my ultimate objective really is.

Samuel Zhou

Blogger, Credit Cardio

Practical means buying what you need instead of what you think you need.

Just because everybody has the cool new shiny iPhone doesn’t mean you need it. Consider that a new iPhone cost more one thousand dollars. If you make $20 an hour, you will need to work 50 hours to afford it. Is it really worth it to trade 50 hours of your life for the newest iPhone?

Consider alternatives like a used iPhone, iPhones of older generations or an Android phone. If it’s a real need, go ahead and buy it, but do some analysis first. If you really want to see if you need it or just want it, wait 30 days to buy it. If you’re still in need of it after the 30th day, go ahead and buy it.

Neil Thompson

Neil Thompson

Speaker | Writer | Founder, Teach the Geek

Being practical is pretty simple for me. Save for a rainy day. Spend within your means. Track your expenses.

Regarding the latter, I keep a spreadsheet of all my monthly expenses. Once I see all my expenses, it becomes easier to know where to cut back if necessary.

For instance, I saw that my eating out expenses were over $200 one month. The following month, I increased my grocery budget to eat in more, dropping my eating out expenses dramatically.

I also look at year to year variability in expenses. I noticed that my car insurance rates were lower last year than this year. I then started shopping around for lower car insurance rates.

Another practical tip is to have recurring expenses automatically deducted from a credit card or debit card. I have a cash back credit card and have many of my bills (internet, cell phone, car insurance, etc.) automatically deducted from the credit card.

I never miss a payment since it’s automatic, I earn cash for each payment, and since the payment is coming from a credit card, I never have overdraft fees.