5 Mindset Secrets to Boosting Your Piano Playing Confidence

5 Mindset Secrets to Boosting Your Piano Playing Confidence

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”

Carol Dweck

Learning to play the piano can be intimidating. After all, there are thousands of talented pianists showcasing their skills on YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook. Many of them have studied with the best teachers. And they’ve performed on the best pianos on the biggest stages around the world.

Watching these performances can lull you into thinking these pianists were simply born talented. It can seem as if you were not born with the same abilities that they were.

In thinking back to my days studying piano in college, I firmly believed that talent won out. I was convinced that some people are born more talented than others. At that time, I also thought that there was a limit to my improvements. In other words, I completely discounted my abilities to improve through hard work.

All of these beliefs chipped away at my self-confidence and significantly worsened my existing performance anxiety. Instead of watching other pianists with the intent of learning how to improve my skills, I chose to feel intimidated. Ultimately, this led to less practice time and more shaky performances than I’d like to admit.

But deep down, I love the instrument! I knew I’d never be able to walk away from it and began searching for ways to improve my piano playing confidence.

And I’m happy to report that I’ve found an inspirational resource that has revolutionized my thoughts on talent. It’s a book called Mindset written by Carol Dweck, and it’s a must-read for anyone who has ever desired improvement in their life.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

Mindset

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times of their lives.”

Carol Dweck

It’s funny that the most significant in my search for piano playing confidence have, for the most part, occurred away from the keyboard. But perhaps this only drives home the point that mindset matters more than I ever imagined it would.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, has spent her career researching mindset. Dweck asserts that ultimately, “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you live your life.”

She spends the remainder of the book detailing real-life examples of two opposing mindsets. One is the fixed mindset, and the other is the growth mindset.

If these are entirely new terms to you, don’t worry! Before reading the book, they were also foreign to me but are relatively intuitive when you understand the basics. Dweck describes the fixed mindset as “an urgency to prove yourself over and over.” It’s the belief that your intelligence, abilities, and personality are fixed and unable to be altered. I would refer you to the introduction for more on the fixed mindset.

On the other hand, the growth mindset is a belief that you are capable of change. Although the shift often occurs due to effort, hard work ignites a passion for learning. In the growth mindset, “failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.”

Now that you have a basic understanding of the two mindsets, let’s explore how to improve your piano playing confidence dramatically!

1. Play to Learn

“Becoming is better than being.”

Carol Dweck

Imagine for a moment that you are preparing to give a recital. You’ve been working on the repertoire for months and feel prepared but struggle with performance anxiety. You’re not sure how you’ll get through it without either throwing up or running off stage mid-recital.

Luckily, your teacher is a wise woman who always knows exactly what to say. She tells you to consider each of the following statements carefully and adopt one.

“Everything comes down to this one performance. I can’t miss a single note, or I’ll be found out as the imposter I am. I’ve got to prove my talent for playing because if I screw this up, I lose my right even to call myself a pianist.”

“I’m nervous about performing but am confident in all the work I’ve put in. This is an incredible opportunity to practice the art of performance, and I’m going to learn everything I can. Even if I miss notes or completely screw something up, I will come away with valuable information I wouldn’t otherwise learn.”

Now I ask you, which mindset would you rather adopt going into that recital?

Even if you’re not preparing for a recital, start making your piano practice about learning. Make it about becoming 1% better than you were yesterday, and you’ll quickly see your piano playing confidence go through the roof!

2. Focus on Yourself

We live in the best and the worst of times for improving your piano skills. Best in that we have unprecedented access to music and recordings unlike any in history. Worst in that, all these performances can create a tendency to compare ourselves to others.

And comparison can easily transition to feelings of demotivation and inferiority.

All those videos may cause you to question whether you’re wasting your time. You may feel like you’ll never be as good as insert name here, so what’s the point?

The point is that insert name here has spent thousands of hours practicing to get where they are today. They’ve put in the time and energy required to pull off that Rachmaninoff concerto successfully.

And you can either use your energy to feel down on yourself or to figure out to improve your skills. Stop making comparisons because it’s never fair to yourself.

Instead of comparing, shift your mindset to one of growth. And keep records of your progress so you can look back and realize just how massive your growth has been. There’s nothing that boosts my piano playing confidence quite like a look back at where I’ve been and where I am currently.

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3. Challenge as Opportunity to Skyrocket Your Piano Playing Confidence

“No matter what your current ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

Carol Dweck

My third mindset secret for improving piano playing confidence goes hand-in-hand with the second. It involves seeing challenge as an opportunity rather than as a roadblock.

Learning to play the piano is fascinating in that there’s always something to improve upon. I would argue that it’s impossible to learn all the repertoire out there. And there will always be nuances that are more difficult than others.

As an example, memorization has always been tricky for me. And I could choose to forget about memorizing as no one is forcing me to do it. But I love the challenge of continuing to learn a skill that doesn’t come naturally to me.

And as a result, I have found that memorizing is now easier than it ever used to be. It’s also become way more fun than I remember it being in my college days! I love taking a piece from sight-reading to memorization because I know how hard I have to work to make it happen.

And it makes the feeling of accomplishment that much sweeter!

I encourage you to start seeing the opportunity in the challenge instead of writing anything off as impossible. If nothing else, I hope you’ll understand the personal enjoyment that comes from doing something you once thought impossible!

4. Identify Your Alter Ego

Even the most positive thinkers among us have an alter ego. This alter ego loves to remind us of our limitations and past failures. It delights in cautioning us from taking chances to avoid embarrassment.

And if you think about it, the negative alter ego often aligns closely with characteristics of a fixed mindset. Although it hides under the guise of protecting you from the unknown, it only serves to hold you back from fantastic new opportunities. Or in the case of the piano, it feeds into the energy of low self-confidence, performance anxiety, and imposter syndrome.

And identifying this negative voice can be tricky!

But in her book, Dweck gives incredibly useful advice for managing these mindsets. She recommends clearly identifying your alter ego, going so far as to name it. By doing so, you can clearly distinguish between the two mindsets and begin to identify triggers for a fixed mindset clearly.

In time, you can start shutting down those negative thoughts before they’ve had a chance to take root. And with a firm grasp on growth mindset, I’m positive you’ll see your piano playing confidence go through the roof!

5. Look for Opportunity to Improve Character and Your Piano Playing Confidence

“Effort is one of those things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you, and you are willing to work for it.”

Carol Dweck

If there’s anything I’ve learned from life thus far, it’s that anything worth having takes effort. And nothing I’ve gotten easily has been of much value.

So it is with piano.

I would be lying if I said that I always feel like practicing. Or that I never get frustrated with various technical aspects of the instrument. But at the end of the day, I know all these challenges are transforming me into a stronger pianist. And a better person.

I hope it’s the same with you. Regardless of whether you’re working through a beginner book or are learning a Chopin etude, don’t give up! Keep at it and look for little ways to stay motivated. Embrace the growth mindset in piano and in life.

And if you’re looking for other ways to improve your piano playing confidence, make sure to check out these posts:

I also highly recommend you check out Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s an easy read and applicable to both piano and life!

As always, I would love to hear from you! Where are you struggling in your piano journey? Or do you have any secrets to overcoming piano-related barriers? Do you relate to the concepts of fixed and growth mindset?

Please drop a comment below so I can address your questions and challenges here on Only Getting Better! And until next time, stay safe, healthy, and never stop seeking the best version of yourself!

5 Secrets to Channeling a Growth Mindset

5 Secrets to Channeling a Growth Mindset

I’m not a fan of sports in the traditional sense of the word. And by that, I mean the sense that involves people getting into teams and throwing or kicking balls back and forth.

Despite being married to arguably the world’s biggest sports fan, I can’t force myself to get into fandom.

I’ve walked out of multiple professional sporting events without the faintest idea who won. I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s tough for me even to care who wins.

There are times when I wish I could care about scores and teams for my husband’s sake. But at the end of the day, it’s tough for me to emotionally engage in something that has no direct impact on my daily life. Win or lose; my life goes on, so why waste the time or energy?

Despite a complete lack of interest in the mechanics of sports, there are concepts related to sports that deeply fascinate me. Such concepts include leadership, teamwork, and Michael Jordan.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

Champions: Born or Made?

I know what you’re thinking. Michael Jordan is not really a concept. He’s more of an iconic player the likes of which neither basketball nor the world is likely ever to see again.

And this is precisely what intrigues me!

How do the best in the world get to be the best? I’m not talking about people who are kinda good.

I’m talking about the type of skill that even someone 100% sports illiterate can recognize.

Is it luck? Are some people just born champions, automatically destined for greatness?

Honestly, I hope not because what kind of message does that send to those of us not blessed with immediately apparent superpowers? Are we all just doomed to a life of mediocrity even despite our best efforts?

Or are champions made? Do hours upon hours of hard work and sacrifice slowly mold someone into an icon?

The Myth of Natural Talent

I have to admit that I’ve always secretly hoped for the latter. I mean, who hasn’t rooted for the one with all the odds stacked against them?

And isn’t watching the underdog surmount seemingly impossible obstacles more thrilling than watching the character “born to play the game” anyway?

Despite my love for the underdog, there’s always been part of me who buys into “natural talent.” It’s the same part of me who has always believed smart people don’t have to work hard.

Or that if you’re meant to do something, it should come easily to you. You shouldn’t have to work hard at anything for which you are “destined.”

At first glance, being born with a gift for doing something seems completely legitimate. It’s an easy explanation for why some people stand as legends in their field. They are simply “born this way.”

But a closer look reveals a completely different story. It’s a story of passion, dedication, and perseverance under the most challenging circumstances. Turn on a documentary about any legendary sports figure, and you’ll see hours upon hours of (gasp!) hard work and sacrifice.

Not a single one of these legends chalks their success up to the luck of the draw. I would venture to guess that many would be insulted at the mere thought that someone would consider them a natural because it dismisses all the effort they’ve put in along the way.

Although I’m far from uncovering all the secrets to becoming a champion, I am pleased to say that I’ve found a few answers. And I’m more convinced than ever before that champions are not born. They’re made.

The Evidence

I know it sounds like a bold statement, but evidence supporting the truth of improvement through effort is all around. As previously mentioned, try to find one sports documentary that doesn’t touch on effort. And there are also entire books dedicated to the topic.

There is even a book dedicated to making meaningful improvements through the art of practice. And spoiler alert, there will be a blog post coming soon about this topic!

But this particular post is about mindset. Specifically, growth mindset.

So if I haven’t yet mentioned this, let me take this opportunity to encourage you to read Mindset. Written by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, it’s a powerful testimony to the impact mindset has on our lives. The book also specifically breaks down mindset techniques applicable to work, parenting, relationships, and teaching.

I promise that it will change how you think about thinking. It will also challenge how you interact with friends, colleagues, your spouse, and even your kids.

The book is a complete game-changer! And to demonstrate what I’m talking about, let’s get into what it means to have a growth mindset.

The Secret’s in the Mindset

“In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”

Carol Dweck

“Mindset” is a word thrown around all the time, but a mindset is simply a way of thinking. It’s how we sort out the world around us. And in her book called Mindset, Carol Dweck explores two specific types: the fixed and the growth mindset.

In the most basic sense, the difference between the two lies in the states of either becoming or being. The fixed mindset often revolves around continually needing to prove oneself to those around them. It also involves having very “fixed” viewpoints with little belief that meaningful change is possible. The fixed mindset is, therefore, the state of being.

On the other hand, the growth mindset is about learning. Someone with a growth mindset cares little about what those around them think as long as they gain value from the experience. They are constantly looking for ways to improve and to give goals their absolute best shot. This is the mindset of becoming rather than being.

The growth mindset is crucial to achieving success in life. This is the mindset that sets champions apart from the rest.

It’s important to remember that everyone has characteristics of both mindsets. And one may come out more prominently than the other in certain situations. As with most things in life, awareness is the first step.

Now let’s dig into the secrets of channeling a growth mindset!

1. Growth Mindset Secret: The Power of Yet

My very first secret to channeling a growth mindset uses the subtlety of language. More specifically, the addition of one simple word to goals you’re working on achieving.

And that word is “yet.” Yet is a powerful reminder that your goals are on the horizon of just a little bit more effort. Whether you’re talking to yourself or your kids, including this one small word changes everything.

As an example, let’s consider a goal to lose weight. Consider each of the following statements:

A) I haven’t lost 20 pounds.

B) I haven’t lost 20 pounds yet.

Which of the two sounds more motivating? Statement A implies a vague goal that may or may not be achieved. On the other hand, statement B frames the goal in a way that feels as if those 20 pounds are right around the corner.

Language matters. Especially the language you use to yourself. Pay attention to your thinking and how you come across to yourself deep inside.

Is your inner voice forgiving and encouraging? Or is it harsh and critical?

Life is hard enough without a strict inner critic catastrophizing every move you make.

And if you’re looking for more on adding “yet” to your goals, check out Carol Dweck’s incredibly inspirational TED talk.

2. Growth Mindset Secret: Embrace Challenges

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenges, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch.”

Carol Dweck

What goes through your mind when an unexpected roadblock to achieving your goal pops up? Does your brain take a turn to negative town? Do you immediately begin worrying about how you’ll make it through? Maybe you even think about giving up on your goal.

I don’t know about you, but this is my brain left unchecked. At the slightest hint of struggle, my brain automatically conjures worst-case scenarios. It’s kind of like my anti-superpower. And by that, I mean it’s the exact opposite of an actual superpower because it’s so wildly unhelpful.

Unhelpful, that is until I learned to embrace it.

We all have obstacles in our path. Some are physical, and some are mental or emotional. And I’ve learned that I’m often the one standing in my way.

I know this to be true because, in any given situation, things have always worked out for my good. It’s been the times that stand out as most challenging when I’ve learned the most about myself.

Challenge means change. It means massive growth on a scale impossible to imagine with the status quo.

Start embracing the challenges that come your way. Don’t give in to fear. And remember that everything is working for your good.

3. Growth Mindset Secret: Focus on Learning

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

Carol Dweck

If you struggle with perfectionism, imposter syndrome, or both, this next growth mindset secret is for you!

After reading Mindset, it became incredibly apparent to me how fixed my mindset tends to be in certain situations. And I’ve discovered a connection between having a fixed mindset and imposter syndrome.

As an example, I’ve found that when my mindset seems to be most fixed, it also tends to be a situation when I most fear being uncovered as an imposter. They also tend to be situations when my perfectionist side comes out the strongest.

But when I started approaching these situations to learn rather than impress others, imposter syndrome has also magically released its hold.

Unfortunately, I’ve also recognized similar associations in my kids. But emphasizing “learning” rather than “being smart” is starting to transition my mindset and my kids to more of a growth mindset.

Embracing “learning” over “being” also tells that harsh inner critic to take a back seat because failure is expected when you’re learning. My most valuable lessons have come from some of my biggest failures.

Start framing your interactions with a learning mindset, and I’m confident you’ll see perfectionism and your fears of being discovered as an imposter melt away. I guarantee that it’s a more free and peaceful way to live!

If you’re looking for more on freeing yourself from perfectionism, make sure to check out this post.

4. Growth Mindset Secret: Watch for Success in Others

This next growth mindset secret goes back to where we started in the beginning. If you want to get better at something, find the best and learn from them.

Rather than be threatened by success, use it as the path to get where you want to go.

Thanks to the internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to access their secrets.

I’m talking basketball, business, crocheting, and anything in between. The core principle of the growth mindset is a belief that you can improve. You can, through focused effort, make strides in your ability to do anything.

I’m not saying that I’m hoping to emulate Michael’s dunking skills, but I strive to be known as someone who works harder and is more passionate about my goals than anyone in the room.

Figure out your thing and find that person from whom you can learn the secrets of success.

5. Growth Mindset Secret: Recognize Your Mindset

“Mindsets frame the running account that’s taking place in people’s heads. They guide the whole interpretation process. The fixed mindset creates an internal monologue that is focused on judging. People with the growth mindset … are attuned to implications for learning and constructive action.”

Carol Dweck

The last growth mindset secret is the most important of all. It’s vital because you must recognize the difference between the two mindsets in yourself; otherwise, improvement is nearly impossible.

In the very last chapter of the book, Dweck describes practical exercises for determining whether you’re in a fixed or growth mindset. She even advises naming your fixed mindset and giving it a persona to make recognition easier.

When I feel vulnerable and “judged,” I’ve found that it means I’m in a fixed rather than growth mindset. When I center myself on keeping the above 4 growth mindset secrets in mind, I find converting back to growth simple.

Take a minute to think about your own life. Are there specific situations that trigger the need to prove yourself to others? How do those situations make you feel? And what would you rather be feeling in those moments?

Recognition goes a long way towards improvement, and I truly hope you have found this post helpful in your journey toward a more peaceful and positive life.

Until next time, make sure you check out Mindset by Carol Dweck and if you’re looking for more positive inspiration, make sure you check out one of the following posts!