Frustration.This is one of the most difficult things about playing an instrument. In order to improve, we have to push through the difficulty of learning. Sometimes when I am practicing a new skill or a difficult passage, I imagine the synapses firing in my brain, stretching and reaching so far to connect, yearning for understanding and fluency. One of the major hurdles to our own success is learning how to let go of frustration and to stay positive while learning. Here's a little secret: with the right approach, learning becomes much easier! I tell my students that if we begin with an optimistic and confident mindset, we will save countless hours of frustration. The question that students ask me more than anything is how.
Begin with optimism and confidence!Research shows that once we are in a negative feedback loop, it is much more difficult to break that loop. We must start fresh every day, our mindset outside of the practice room matters, and we must cultivate positivity in all aspects of life. How do you change entrenched thinking patterns? First, observe your own mind and recognize that these negative patterns are present. Acknowledge, and then let go. Our brains only like to keep a finite amount of information in our immediate grasp, so fill that space up with positivity. Keep a journal, either analogue or online (I love the colorful moleskins!) and write down three things that you are grateful for every morning. Think about it while brushing your teeth, and then just jot it down. This is the first step to rewiring your mind toward positivity.
Get Some Exercise!Walk, run, bike, chase your dog around, square dance...anything! Just get your blood circulating! This is so important because stress and negative thinking takes such a huge toll on the human body! Release some of the stale, old bad feelings through sweat...your body will thank you! Once you get those endorphins flowing, you will see things in a different light. Trust me, it works like a charm!
Keep a Journal of PositivityWrite down a list of positive things every day. This only needs to take a few minutes; you can do this while you are waiting for class to start, in between practice sessions, before bed, or any time! Gain some perspective on your life; the world is full of people who just can't let themselves enjoy the good that they have all around them. Learn to recognize the positive, remember that you are retraining your brain!
Stay in the Flow of Positivity while PracticingThe next step is the big one. You've cultivated all of these wonderful habits, now how do you apply them to the practice room? As I get out my instrument, I set my intentions. Here's an exercise that I use to set my intentions: I imagine my mind as a coin. One side of the coin has all the wonder, excitement, positivity, and creativity that makes up my human potential. What is on the other side? All of the negative, hate, and frustration? No. The other side is nothing. If I flip that coin over, there is nothing. I check in with my mind's coin often, and I know that it will always land with the sunny side up, because I my mind can't create nothing. There will always be something there, there will always be some presence, and that presence is good.
In order to keep yourself in the flow of positivity, keep this in mind:
flutist, writer, traveler, teacher