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The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Kids to Practice Piano

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Kids to Practice Piano

You’ve signed your kids up for piano lessons. Everything was going smoothly in the beginning. Your kids were excited about starting, and getting your kids to practice piano was effortless.

But something shifted.

Suddenly you find yourself begging, bargaining, and pleading to get them to practice. Or yelling. And maybe the yelling is as mutual as the frustration surrounding the topic of practice.

What gives? Your kids were thrilled at the prospect of learning to play the piano. And you, being the well-informed and conscientious mom you are, were eagerly awaiting their transformation into brilliant, well-rounded tiny humans.

Was enrolling your kids in piano lessons a mistake? Maybe you’re questioning your parenting abilities and secretly fear their practice aversion is somehow your fault.

As a pianist and a mom, believe me when I say that getting kids to practice can be as much art as creating music. But you can do it! You can guide your kids into the opportunity of a lifetime WITHOUT tears and screaming.

And it all starts with understanding why your kids avoid piano practice.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the photos appearing on this page. All photos courtesy of twinsterphoto and FamVeld from Getty Images via Canva.

Why is getting your kids to practice piano so difficult?

I will go out on a limb and say that most kids hate piano practice for two reasons. The first is that it can be tedious. For the most part, kids are constantly overstimulated. Flashing screens, bouncing cursors, and billions of on-demand videos seem way more exciting than a piano, a book, and a pencil.

I’m not here to deny the many benefits that come with being constantly keyed into the online world.

But I will point out that our attention span is now around 6 seconds. According to several sources, this is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.

Maybe this article should instead be about teaching your pet fish to play the piano?

But in all seriousness, piano practice requires focus, which no longer comes naturally to most people. It’s instead something that must be trained.

The second reason kids hate practice is that they have no idea how to spend their practice time. Your kids know they need to practice because you and their teacher tell them to, but they don’t actually know how.

And because your kids don’t know how to practice, their piano practice time often becomes monotonous.

Practice: Stuck on Repeat

Between the boredom and uncertainty of what practice should entail, it’s no wonder piano practice gets such a bad rap. And it’s no wonder kids instead gravitate toward other activities and learn to dread practice time.

But at its core, music is about creativity. It’s about the expression of human emotion. And it’s about individuality.

Music is the exact opposite of boredom.

So how can you convince your kids that piano practice is a really fun and exciting way to spend their time?

We’ll get there, but first, let’s explore what practice is and what it is not.

Somewhere along the line, piano practice became synonymous with repetition. In other words, practice means you play something repeatedly until you can suddenly play it correctly. And then you come back the next day and simply repeat what you did yesterday all over again. You do this day after day until you go back to your lesson, at which point your teacher assigns new songs, and the cycle continues.

And so on and so forth until the end of time.

Seriously. How boring does that sound?

Repetition vs. Practice

On the surface, repeating something until it’s perfect seems to make sense. Isn’t that why they say, “practice makes perfect?”

But let me ask you something. Does simply repeating something mean you will automatically get better?

Let’s say I want to dunk like Michael Jordan. I decide to “practice” by making 500 shots. But by the end of my session, I’m still nowhere near his skill level. What gives?

Repetition does not guarantee improvement. Actual progress comes first from identifying exactly what you want to improve. You then must find a specific tactic to get better at that thing.

I realize that this may seem far into the weeds on a post about getting your kids to practice piano. But I think it’s important to understand both the barriers to and significance of practice.

At that point, you can help your kids find excitement and meaning in their practice sessions. And you can kiss the tantrums goodbye!

If you’ve fallen into the repetition as practice trap, please don’t feel bad about it! There are far fewer resources out there on effective practice than there are about playing an instrument.

Teachers everywhere expect students to practice and somehow assume students know what that means. I’ve been playing piano for nearly 30 years and will be the first to say that I associated repetition with practice for far too long.

I still fall into the repetition trap from time to time. But thanks to this post, you have the resources to help turn all that around for your kids!

A Controversial Practice Philosophy

This next section may seem contrary to everything I’ve said thus far, but it still deserves telling. Piano lessons are about introducing your kids to new skills and an outlet for their creativity.

The right kind of practice is essential for growth, but every kid is an individual. And chances are, your kids will not grow up to be concert pianists.

But could every kid who takes piano lessons foster a hobby they will enjoy for the rest of their lives? Absolutely.

The art of practice is valuable in and of itself. It’s an opportunity to teach your kids how to improve at something. It teaches them about persistence and creative problem-solving.

And these are lessons that are applicable beyond the keyboard.

Many piano teachers out there have mandatory practice requirements. And I agree that practice is vital for improving. But not every kid needs the same amount of practice to make improvements.

And depending upon the goals your kids have for themselves; their practice sessions may look different.

Let your kids explore piano in a way that excites them. Make practice something they look forward to instead of something they dread. Now let’s dive into getting your kids to practice piano!

Get Your Kids to Practice Piano by Setting Reasonable Goals

My very first recommendation for getting your kids to practice piano is to sit down with them and talk about practice goals. Their teacher may have a weekly practice expectation, but how do your kids feel about this requirement?

And how does this requirement fit into their current obligations?

Many piano teachers would love to think that kids devote themselves to the piano at the exclusion of all else. But this kind of thinking isn’t realistic in today’s world.

Kids are involved in many activities, and why shouldn’t they be? Life is about exploration and learning new things. The truth is that you can fit regular practice into any schedule, regardless of how busy that schedule is.

But everyone has to be on the same page about the goals your piano kid has for themself.

Start with the following questions to get the conversation started with your kids:

  • What other activities are you involved with, and how much time do you realistically have available for practice?
  • Does your teacher have a minimum practice requirement?
  • When is the best time to get your practice done?
  • What are the barriers you see to getting practice done daily?
  • And are there strategies you can use to overcome those barriers?

The keyword here is REASONABLE. There’s no room for guilt, and if you have 5 minutes a day for practice, it’s better than nothing!

Stick to a Consistent Daily Practice Time

Once you’ve had the practice discussion with your kids, it’s time to set a consistent daily practice time. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve decided on 5 or 50 minutes of daily practice time; the key is consistency.

Consider whether your kids may benefit from multiple short practice sessions rather than one long one. Research shows that keeping sessions short promotes more effective learning. As an example, if your goal is 30 minutes a day, try to break it up into three 10-minute sessions.

Try to attach practice time to another established habit. An example of this might be sitting down at the piano immediately following their afterschool snack every day.

Some families find that practicing before school works better than after. Our family is not quite that evolved yet, but it’s something I’m considering for the future.

Again, the key is consistency. Your kids will take more away from multiple, short daily sessions than one long session once a week.

Help Your Kids Structure Their Practice Time

Now it’s time to get creative! If you take one thing from this post, I hope it’s that practice should be anything but dull repetition.

Have a conversation with your kids’ piano teacher about what should happen during practice. Get ideas for how you can help your kids spice up their practice time.

Send a notebook to lessons so their teacher can write down weekly practice goals.

Find out what drives your kids to learn the instrument. Are they really into pop music? Do they love classical? Or do they adore video game music?

Whatever your kids are into, I guarantee there’s piano music for it out there. Ask the teacher for recommendations on music that’s level appropriate and accessible.

Incorporate the music they love into their practice routine. Use it as a reward for getting through the stuff that’s important but not as fun.

Find out whether they can use apps or websites during practice time to beef up their musical knowledge.

I know this sounds like a fair amount of work but staying active in the process will help your kids have a better experience. It shows that you’re invested in their learning.

Get Your Kids to Practice Piano by Learning with Your Kids

And speaking of learning, have you considered taking piano lessons along with your kids? Sharing the experience of learning is a great way to bond with your kids.

It gives you more patience and empathy for your kids when you come home tired from a long day at work and aren’t necessarily enthused about practice either.

And it allows you to show your kids that you’re never too old to learn something new.

Whether you’re a total beginner or dabbled as a child, now is the best time to get back into it!

If you’re intrigued by taking lessons, make sure you check out my post about how to learn piano as an adult.

Reward Their Efforts

Help your kids feel good about their efforts by rewarding them for a job well done. Maybe it’s a small weekly reward for hitting their goal time. Or perhaps it’s a larger reward for mastering a particular piece.

Many parents find success with practice charts. I use an app to document practice and find it both motivating and rewarding.

Whatever the reward, it’s important to teach them the art of celebrating their wins.

Perhaps fidgets or stickers from Amazon will be enough to entice them?

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For information on the practice app that I love, check out this post.

Connect with Other Learners

Some of my most memorable musical experiences have come from performances with others. Music is not meant to be a solitary pursuit, so look for ways to help your kids get involved with other musical kids.

One of the major benefits of learning piano is countless opportunities to collaborate. From chamber music to choir to solo accompaniment, the possibilities are endless!

I even recently discovered how fun worship band playing could be.

Introducing your kids to the world of musical collaboration may be just the secret sauce you need to spark their learning!

Many teachers have performance requirements built into their studio policies and encourage collaboration with other kids.

And if your kids are shy about performing, a friend may be vital to helping them have positive performance experiences. It’s truly a win-win situation that will hopefully foster a lifetime of teamwork and collaboration skills applicable outside the realm of music.

Student/Teacher Fit

I’ve mentioned piano teachers here and there throughout this post, but if your kids are quite opposed to practice, it’s worth a conversation with their teacher.

There may be a mismatch between the teacher’s expectations for your kids and the expectations your kids have for themselves. Piano teachers have a reputation for being rigidly type A, and although not all teachers are that way, many are.

Personality clashes can result in and make lessons a drag for your kids. And I’m not saying lessons should be all rainbows and sunshine, but the mark of a good teacher is how your kid feels when they leave lessons for the day.

Do your kids feel inspired to reach new musical levels? Or are they guilt-ridden about not achieving some hypothetical practice requirement?

To minimize practice resistance and maximize learning goals, you must have a good fit between the teacher and the student. If your goal is to expose your kids to music and foster a love of music, it’s crucial that the teacher understands and supports these goals.

But if your kids have a more serious goal of achieving mastery of the instrument, you must find a teacher capable of guiding their journey.

Neither goal is right or wrong. And there are all kinds of teachers out there. Make sure you find one who fosters the type of learning most beneficial to your kids.

Don’t Sweat It

Although this has been a post all about the ins and outs of getting your kids to practice piano, don’t sweat it if none of the above advice works. All kids are individuals and take different things away from their learning experiences.

Will the teacher become frustrated if they have to guide your kids through something they should have practiced at home? Possibly.

But there’s no way of knowing the future impact continuing lessons will have on your kids. This is true whether or not they practice.

I’m a firm believer that even if your kids are not fond of practice, there’s value in the experience of taking lessons and learning something new. I don’t believe that kids should quit lessons because they don’t practice.

I believe that there is an opportunity to explore goals and have a conversation about the value of the experience.

And maybe your kids decide that they really hate the piano.

That’s ok too. Maybe you can use this opportunity to get them involved with a different instrument.

And maybe they will discover an instrument they are deeply passionate about, and you will never need to have the practice discussion ever again.

All this to say, never guilt yourself about your kids not putting in the practice time. There is a massive range of reasons why daily practice may be unrealistic. And it’s pointless to take a turn to negative town for things beyond your control.

Know that by enrolling your kids in lessons, you are opening them up to a world of new experiences and possibilities. And isn’t that, in and of itself, enough?

It’s Your Turn

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. What are the barriers you face to consistent practice? Are there ways you have found to spice up your kids’ practice time? And have you pursued piano lessons for yourself?

Whatever your feedback, I’d love to hear all about it!

More great piano inspiration is to come but, in the meantime, make sure you check out one of the following posts:

Why You’ll Never Regret Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

Why You’ll Never Regret Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

If you’ve been a mom for more than 5 minutes, you know parenting comes with its share of choices. Some are easy. But others are hard and come with the looming threat of regret.

Like when you let a particular word slip one too many times and learn that your little exhibits his expanded vocabulary at daycare.

Or when you needed 10 minutes of peace and quiet only to discover your munchkin used the time to try her hand at dog grooming. And now your poodle is sporting what can only be referred to as the “dog vs. lawnmower” cut.

Let’s not forget when you let the kids talk you into getting a snake. It was all fun and games until someone left the cage open. And now you have a snake loose in your house. Just waiting to make his appearance when you least expect it.

Parenting is full of fun little life lessons.

But there is one decision that, when made, you’ll never regret. And that decision is enrolling your kids in piano lessons.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the photos appearing on this page. All photos courtesy of Ivan-balvan, rfranca, and yanukit from Getty Images via Canva.

At a Glance: Top Reasons for Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

At this point, you may be asking yourself why I dare to make such a bold statement. You’re likely asking yourself what I’m trying to sell. Or whether I have ulterior motives behind convincing you to enroll your kids in piano lessons.

And the simple answer is that I am the product of being enrolled in piano lessons as a child. I started piano lessons at the age of 7 and continued through college.

Of all the decisions my parents made on my behalf, I am most thankful they decided to sit me down in front of the piano. It’s been the blessing of a lifetime and one I encourage you to consider for your children.

And since I know you’re busy, here’s a bulleted list of the top reasons you should consider enrolling your kids in piano lessons:

  • Spark their creativity
  • Teach them how to solve problems
  • Boost their confidence
  • Inspire them to view failure as an opportunity to learn
  • Ignite a passion they can pursue for the rest of their lives
  • Ensure they will reach their full potential

And if you have a few quiet minutes to yourself, please know how much I appreciate you spending them with me! Silence is a precious commodity in parenthood, and your support means the world. 🙂

I promise to make the time worth your while, so let’s dive right in!

Spark Their Creativity

When you hear the word “creativity,” what comes to mind? In the context of your kids, maybe macaroni art and Crayola scribbles come to mind. My brain automatically travels to cut and pasted creations hastily stuffed into backpacks at the end of the day.

But did you know that creativity has broader applications beyond hand-eye coordination and the ability to follow directions? According to an article written by Paul Patrone on LinkedIn, creativity is the most important skill in the world.1

Patrone explains that creativity is widely valued because employers want innovation. They want people who can approach old problems in new and exciting ways. Jobs that can be automated are typically on the lower end of the pay scale or have been eliminated thanks to AI.

Success in work and life, therefore, demands creativity.

And although glue, crayons, and construction paper have taken creative credit for years, learning a musical instrument is another fantastic way to introduce creativity.

Learning to play the piano simultaneously stimulates multiple areas of their brain and encourages alternative forms of creativity. And expanding creativity is only one of many life skills gained by enrolling your kids in piano lessons. Let’s move on to the second.

Teach Them How to Solve Problems

“Life is a continuous exercise in creative problem-solving.”

Michael Gelb

One of the most exciting parts of having kids is watching them figure stuff out. And when kids are young, they LIVE to do things independently! It doesn’t matter how simple the task; kids love self-reliance.

How many times did you stand outside in the rain so little Addison could buckle her own seatbelt? Or watch Logan spill milk all over the counter because he insisted he could pour it all by himself?

If you think about it, life is about solving a never-ending series of problems. And as we get older, the problems tend to become more complicated.

So, wouldn’t it make sense to equip your kids with as many tools as possible to help them overcome life’s obstacles?

Piano lessons give kids a completely different set of skills. And with a different set of skills, there’s no limit to the type of problems they will eventually be able to solve with confidence.

Boost Their Confidence by Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

And speaking of confidence … is there anything better than watching your kids proudly display a newly mastered skill? Whether it’s spelling “mom” for the first time or scribbling their first Mother’s Day card, you LOVE seeing their confidence soar!

Imagine seeing the joy in the eyes of your kids when they can play a familiar song for you. Or their excitement when they ask their music teacher to play something they’ve learned for their classmates.

By enrolling your kids in piano lessons, you’re giving them unique skills. And the opportunity to showcase those skills.

With each new piano challenge they encounter, your kids have the chance to triumph. And once they learn that they can triumph in the music room, your kids will know they can triumph in life as well.

Does it honestly get any better than that?

Inspire Them to View Failure as an Opportunity to Learn

Do you have perfectionist tendencies? If so, have you noticed these same tendencies in your little ones?

Thanks to a combination of nature and nurture, perfectionism tends to be a trait easily passed from one generation to the next.

Perfectionism has its perks, but for the most part, it’s a debilitating mindset. It’s often accompanied by procrastination and low self-esteem. And it can be incredibly difficult to correct, especially if not recognized and addressed at an early age.

I was an adult before I realized how much perfectionism held me back. If I had a time machine, I would go back and tell my younger self to chill out. That everything would be ok. And that mistakes are part of life.

But since I can’t go back in time, I’ve made a vow to help my kids with perfectionism. And I’ve found that introducing them to piano lessons has been the perfect medium to make mistakes.

I encourage my kids to have fun with music. We sing, clap, and talk about how music relates to life during lessons.

And when they become frustrated, we sit with those emotions. We explore frustration and talk about creative ways to channel it. But most of all, we talk about how learning can’t happen without failure.

Through piano lessons, my kids learn that failure means you’re trying. And that the only way you lose is by not even trying in the first place.

Ignite a Passion They Can Pursue for the Rest of Their Lives

Passion is a funny thing. Some kids are born knowing what lights them up inside and then spend their lives pursuing that thing. Other kids bounce around from one interest to the next. They never spend too much time in any one area but seem to excel in a variety of areas.

Regardless of which type of kid calls you “mom,” one thing is certain—your never-ending love and desire for them to lead fulfilling lives.

Today’s world offers a limitless array of activities in which to enroll your kids. You can get them involved in soccer, 4-H, theater, or karate at any given time.

And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with involving kids in a wide range of hobbies.

But I will ask you to consider how many of those hobbies can be pursued well into adulthood. The list narrows a bit, doesn’t it?

By enrolling your kids in piano lessons, you give them the gift of a lifetime hobby. They will have skills applicable for years and years to come. Even if they end up playing pop songs for themselves at home, I guarantee they will consider the time well spent.

Click here to read more about why people with multiple interests have limitless potential.

Ensure They Will Reach Their Full Potential by Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

Your goal as a mom is to raise creative, well-adjusted, and well-rounded kids. It’s not an easy job, but it is fulfilling. Especially when you can move forward knowing you’ve given your kids the tools they need to succeed in this crazy, messed-up world.

There’s a ton of scientific, research-based evidence out there about the benefits of piano lessons in childhood. By enrolling your kids in piano lessons, you’re helping them improve their visual and spatial skills. You’re also helping them with memory and math skills. There’s even evidence out there that playing the piano wards off dementia in later years.

But for those of us who love the instrument, learning piano in and of itself is enough.

I would have never considered myself a serious player when I was younger, but I’ve always loved sitting down and playing. And I still do. The piano has opened up a world of opportunity for me, and I’m thankful every day for what I’ve learned from the instrument.

The piano has taught me about persistence. It has taught me that learning never ends. And practice, the right kind of practice, always means progress.

It’s for these reasons, and so many more, that I make the bold statement that you will never regret enrolling your kids in piano lessons.

And if you’re ready to move forward with lessons, make sure to check out my Resource page for a listing of piano teachers currently accepting students. Many teachers now offer online lessons, a convenient option for busy moms and kids!

Don’t forget to leave a comment below with your thoughts on this post. What challenges do you face as a mom with kids in piano lessons? Did you take lessons as a child? And if so, do you still play?

Stay tuned for more upcoming posts geared towards parenting piano kids!

Make sure to check out the following posts for more piano inspiration:

1. Petrone, Paul. (2018, Dec. 31). Why creativity is the most important skill in the world. LinkedIn. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from https://www.linkedin.com/business/learning/blog/top-skills-and-courses/why-creativity-is-the-most-important-skill-in-the-world

5 Simple Reasons You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist

5 Simple Reasons You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist

“At what point do you get to be called a pianist?”

I recently stumbled across this hotly debated topic in a Facebook group for adults learning to play the piano. And the feedback by fellow adult learners were more than a little shocking.

Responses ranged from anyone who can find middle C to only those who accept money for their skills. Many replies fell somewhere in the “you can only consider yourself a pianist when you can play the 3rd Rachmaninoff concerto blindfolded and handcuffed in front of a live studio audience” camp.

People argued. Tempers flared.

Responses appeared in ALL CAPS. Exclamation marks peppered the entire exchange.

Who knew that such a seemingly humdrum question would result in an outright clash of egos?

And more importantly, what does any of this have to do with you?

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the photos appearing on this page. All photos courtesy of pixelshot, Sbringser, and Negative Space via Canva.

Why You Should Care About This Definition

A definition sets you apart. It tells those around you that you’re serious about what you do. And it dramatically increases your success rate.

How you think about yourself changes the actions you take. If you see yourself a certain way, taking the steps necessary to develop into that person becomes more effortless according to James Clear, author of the phenomenal book Atomic Habits.

As an example, let’s explore getting into shape. There are two ways you can think about getting more exercise.

The first involves focusing only on all the work to become more physically fit. You could spend your time thinking about all those early morning workouts. And all the time it will take you to get back into shape. After a while, it becomes easier and easier to sleep in rather than hit the gym.

The alternative is to think of yourself as an athlete. Does an athlete skip their workouts because they had one too many the night before? Hardly. Does an athlete avoid the gym because it’s too cold outside? Nope.

Do you see how establishing an identity rather than focusing on the action steps themselves sets you up for success? Decisions become a no-brainer.

And you quickly start seeing the results of all those decisions you’ve made add up. Pretty soon, you’re much closer to your goals than ever before.

If you’re looking for more identity-based habit change inspiration, make sure you check out Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Pianist vs. Piano Player

You’re reading this because you’re serious about the piano. But a tiny part of you worries that you’ll never be good enough to call yourself a pianist. You fear that because you’re not into classical and don’t play for money that you don’t have the right to label yourself a “pianist.”

I call bullsh*t.

You’re a pianist. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been playing. Or whether you only sit down to plunk away at show tunes.

Pianists come from all genres and levels. The one constant is how you see yourself.

And if piano brings you joy, you should be calling yourself a pianist. Not a piano player. Or someone who plays the piano.

You’re a pianist.

But if you’re still stuck on the words of those piano trolls who insist that you can only call yourself a pianist if you memorize ALL your music, it’s ok. I’ve got you.

Trolls are loud, but the loudest are usually the ones doing the least amount of work. And trolls thrive on criticizing others.

But you don’t have to be on the receiving end of that criticism. You know the truth and, thanks to this article, have five reasons to be calling yourself a pianist.

1) You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist Because You’re Passionate

“The important thing is to feel your music, really feel it and believe it.”

Ray Charles

Do you find yourself thinking about the piano, even when you’re away from it? Does something about playing the piano feel right even when it’s hard? As if you were always meant to do it?

Does playing the piano give you a deep sense of fulfillment?

If you can answer “yes” to the above questions, you should call yourself a pianist.

Passion means losing track of time when you’re doing what you love. It means daydreaming. And it means ignoring the naysayers because there’s nothing that can replace the feeling you get from playing the piano.

2) You Love Practicing

Do you look forward to that magical time of the day when you are free to play whatever you want? Sure, you have a few goals but for the most part, do you long just to play?

If so, you should be calling yourself a pianist.

It doesn’t matter what you’re practicing. It could be scales, pop, or movie scores. Maybe you love to play songs by ear. If you can’t wait to sit down and get a piece of music under your fingers, you’re a pianist.

3) You Watch YouTube Videos About Playing Piano

A true sign of passion is your YouTube history. Does yours reflect a watch list of piano videos? Maybe it’s tutorials on classical technique. Or outstanding performances by world-class pianists.

Maybe you’re trying to understand music theory, and your watch list consists of minor chords or the circle of fifths.

If so, then you should be calling yourself a pianist.

4) You’re Getting Better Every Day

Regardless of how yesterday’s practice session went, do you constantly aspire for more? Do you start every day by thinking about how you can improve, even by 1%?

You’re a pianist!

And between the practice and all those YouTube videos, you are well on your way to massive improvements!

5) You Should Be Calling Yourself a Pianist Because You Love the Piano!

“When you play, never mind who listens to you.”

Robert Schumann

Can’t stop talking about playing the piano? Maybe you’ve just written an entire blog post about one comment in a piano-related Facebook group. Or you can’t wait to apply the latest self-improvement book you’ve read to the topic of playing the piano.

If any of this applies to you, you should be calling yourself a pianist!

I hope you’ve caught on to one simple theme by this point. A theme that excludes the opinions of others.

The theme is that calling yourself a pianist is NOT about any objective measure of your skill. It’s not about your skill level compared to anyone else around you.

Calling yourself a pianist is about your love for the instrument. It’s about appreciating the music of others. Getting goosebumps when you hear that piece you love.

It’s about feeling a deeply rooted passion for the instrument. And a constant desire to take your artistry to a deeper level. It’s about never giving up, even when it seems like you’ll never master that new technique.

Forget about all those nasty internet piano trolls. Isn’t it about time for you to write your own story?

It’s Your Turn to Start Calling Yourself a Pianist

Pianists exist in all genres.

If piano brings you joy, start calling yourself a pianist.

Can’t wait to get home so you can try out that new practice technique you saw on YouTube? Start calling yourself a pianist.

And if you can’t imagine your life without the instrument, start calling yourself a pianist!

Do you love playing pop tunes? You’re a pianist. Maybe jazz is your jam. You’re a pianist. Or perhaps you love playing worship music at church. It’s time to start calling yourself a pianist. Or organist (as applicable).

Stop letting others dictate how you see yourself. Let’s you and I make a pact. We are no longer falling into the comparison trap from here on out. We’re not giving in to the myth that we need permission from anyone else. And we’re not letting those piano trolls win!

Being a pianist is something that comes from within. It’s not a label anyone else can give you. And if you’re looking for more piano inspiration, make sure you check out the following posts:

As always, don’t forget to leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the post. 🙂

5 Simple Tips to Help You Be More Productive

5 Simple Tips to Help You Be More Productive

How’s life going for you? Is it everything you ever thought? Or are you feeling trapped on a hamster wheel of never-ending obligations that suck up all your emotional energy?

Over the past few years, I’ve felt stuck. A constant sense that I’m not getting enough done follows me everywhere.

I remember a time when I didn’t feel this way. Work stayed at work, and my home life was blissful.

But then I decided to go back to school.

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.

A Downward Spiral into Negativity

From that moment on, I constantly felt the need to be more productive. If I wasn’t checking off a box every second of the day, I was indeed behind at work, home, school, or maybe all 3.

Deep down inside, I didn’t believe that I could successfully navigate all these worlds. That it was ridiculous even to try.

The self-doubt eventually spiraled into an all-consuming cloud of negativity. I became obsessed with wondering whether there was enough time in the day to do all the things.

Instead of spending my time actually being productive, I began obsessing about time. I felt guilty about anything and everything because somehow, nothing felt enough.

And I was always making wrong choices with how I spent my time. Or so it seemed at the time. At work, I was thinking about how little time I was spending with my kids. And at home, I fixated on the low probability of finishing the mountain of homework always waiting for me.

After graduation, I thought things would get better. I thought that I would suddenly feel normal again.

Nope. Those stubbornly obsessive negative thoughts continued to plague my every waking moment.

After a great deal of reflection, I finally made a decision. My happiness and inner peace depended upon shattering the negativity I had built around time and productivity. It was time to embrace a new perspective on how to be more productive!

If any of this resonates with you, keep reading because I promise to bring you a few unique solutions to the age-old problem of getting more done in less time!

1. Cut the Crap to Be More Productive

What do you actually want to accomplish in life? It’s easy to get caught in a web of “busy.” But “busy” is a very non-specific way to quantify your time. And without a sense of direction, you end up wandering the vast wasteland of coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Unfortunately, there are very dark forces at work in your life. And you may or may not even be fully aware of these forces. In her book called How to Get Sh*t Done, Erin Falconer describes some of the invisible constraints holding you back:

  • Women feel a constant need to prove themselves.
  • Unspoken work expectations mean women are saddled with more responsibility (the type that no one else in the office wants!) that will mean neither increased status nor pay.
  • After putting in a full day at work, women come home just to put in more work.
  • People-pleasing tendencies increase involvement in activities you may not otherwise choose for yourself.
  • The joy-sucking power of “should” is constantly playing over and over in your head.

The first step is always awareness. Falconer does an outstanding job of shedding light on everything that’s cluttering up your life.

And by doing so, you can start to abandon everyone else’s expectations in favor of your version of productivity.

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2. Craft Your Unique Version of Productivity

After you strip away the busyness, what’s left? Who are you underneath all those obligations? Are you someone who thrives among people? Or do you prefer a quiet spot to complete your work?

What makes you feel alive inside? And what makes you want to poke your eye out with a pencil?

It’s shocking how little we often know about ourselves simply because we haven’t taken the time. Also shocking is the impact society and those around us have on our aspirations. But when you strip everything away, what you have left is the freedom to make decisions based on you. Not society. And not everyone else in your life.

But you.

Falconer guides you through the process of getting down to you in a seamless and thought-provoking way. If that all sounds intriguing, make sure to check out her book.

3. Comparison Isn’t Always a Dirty Word

Our culture is all about comparison. It starts in grade school when you learn the concept of grades. And it follows you through middle and high school with sports tryouts. Thanks to social media, comparison continues to follow you well into adulthood.

But comparison in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, and you can use it as a force for good!

Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist with fascinating advice on flipping the negative to the positive. I recently discovered his work on the School of Greatness podcast and was immediately inspired.

Dr. Hardy suggests that it’s our comparison to others that results in negative thought patterns. As an example, you see a fellow mom posting flawless pics of her family on social media. Their beaming smiles are brilliantly complemented by perfectly coordinated outfits and a gorgeous fall scene.

Upon seeing the pics, you take a turn to negative town. After all, your last family picture was taken 7 years ago. Before your kids were born.

And you immediately feel like a #momfail.

The truth is, you feel like a failure because you’re making an impossible comparison. You have no idea what else is going on in that woman’s life. We are all fighting battles that we share with only a select few.

And you have overcome some pretty tough stuff in your life as well. Therefore, the only way you can feel accomplished is to compare the woman you were with the woman you are right now.

I guarantee that you will immediately feel accomplished!

So the next time you feel compelled to make a comparison, make sure it’s between the current and past versions of yourself. Because at the end of the day, the only person over whom you have control is yourself.

If you’re curious about Dr. Hardy’s work, check out one of his books:

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4. Make a Done for Today List

Have you ever actually finished everything on your “to-do” list? I’d be lying if I said “yes” to that one. Although I always think seeing things crossed off my list will feel satisfying, it somehow never does. Instead, I constantly focus on everything that remains unchecked.

But here’s a new take on an old and tired concept. I recently heard this advice from an interview with Greg McKeown on the Science of Success podcast.

At the beginning of the day, figure out 3 things that, once complete, will also complete your day. Once those 3 things are done, give yourself the freedom to relish in accomplishment.

Reward yourself! Don’t try to use the extra time to sneak in more stuff. Take some time for yourself. Do something that fills your cup. Or do something that lights you up inside.

But most of all, enjoy the feeling of DONE.

As a type-A achiever, I never feel “done” with tasks in my day. And I think this leads to burnout because nothing ever feels good enough. I’m always trying to check a box.

So after hearing this particular tip, I’ve committed to being DONE every day. Regardless of whatever else is on my list, I’ve started celebrating my accomplishments and not only feel more peaceful but also 10x more productive.

5. A Tale of Two Teams

In the podcast, Greg McKeown goes on to tell the gripping tale of two teams racing against the elements to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Each team had opposing views on how to emerge victoriously. And their vastly different approaches made all the difference between victory and death.

The first team was British. Their leader pushed the team to their very limits whenever the weather was tolerable. On days when the weather was inclement, they camped out and weathered the storm.

The second team was Norwegian. Their leader determined that the best approach would be to advance 15 miles each day. Come fair weather or storm; they would only travel 15 miles.

Guess which team made it to the South Pole first? I’ll give you a hint … slow and steady wins the race.

The Norwegians made it to their goal an entire month before the British. And not only did they win, but they lived to tell the tale. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the British team.

Defining Your Daily Minimum to Be More Productive

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Everyone has a daily threshold for productivity, and there’s only so much you can accomplish in 24 hours. The Norwegian team dramatically highlighted this reality by claiming the victory. And the British team just as dramatically highlighted it through their ultimate demise.

You must set clear boundaries for yourself. Or you, too, will become overwhelmed and burned out.

McKeown suggests setting daily minimum goals for yourself. Figure out how to make this goal effortless. Making it effortless helps you achieve the goal and will leave you wanting more.

As an example, I’ve been trying to publish blog posts on a more consistent basis. But I have a mental block about time. My perception is that it takes time I currently don’t have.

After hearing McKeown’s advice, I decided to set a daily 30-minute writing goal. I have found that I no longer try to procrastinate my writing because 30 minutes feels very attainable.

And once those 30 minutes are up, I stop. I don’t force myself to keep going even if I’m in the middle of writing flow. Stopping when I’m in flow is crucial because I know when I begin again tomorrow, I will be excited to get started.

One of the worst things as a writer is a block, and stopping when I’m mid-paragraph, or even mid-sentence ensures I have something to pick up the following day.

Taking small, daily steps towards your goals increases your odds of success. Find ways to make the process enjoyable, and you’ve suddenly become dramatically more productive.

It’s Your Turn to Be More Productive

You define productivity. And with your unique definition comes freedom. The freedom to say “yes” to anything that feels aligned and “no” to everything else.

Narrow down your big goals to 3 or less at any given time. Go all-in on those goals. And when starting a goal, stop asking “how.” Dr. Hardy explains that “how” is a word that causes procrastination and overwhelm. It immediately adds an element of impossibility to the equation.

You instead need to ask “who.” Who can help you achieve your goal more quickly? Do you need a coach? Or maybe you need a course designed by an expert in the field. Making investments in someone who is already skilled helps you achieve your goals infinitely faster.

As important as “who” is the concept of effortlessness. Once your goal has been defined, how can you make it as easy as possible? Greg McKeown offers brilliant advice on finding joy while making goals feel effortless. Sadly, the perception of effort has held me back personally in all areas of my life. I, therefore, adore his philosophy on productivity!

And remember that slow and steady wins every time. There’s simply no need to make things overly complicated or overwhelming. I would even suggest that if you feel overwhelmed, you need to take a step back. Figure out your priorities. And cut everything that doesn’t make the grade.

Find the person who can help you. And make it effortless.

Additional Resources

If you’re looking for even more resources, make sure you check out any of the following books:

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And make sure to check out the following posts for even more great personal development!

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Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

Do you ever feel stuck in your piano playing? You feel as if you put in the practice time but just aren’t making the progress you’d like.

Or maybe you do feel like you’re making huge strides in your playing but want to take things to the next level.

As a lifelong pianist, I’m always looking for that slight edge to take my skills to the next level. And I’m ecstatic to present you with a few easy brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as affiliates of SkillShare and 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. All images on this page courtesy of Canva.

Background on Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

I’ve written a bit about my academic background in other posts but will mention it again for readers new to the blog. My first degree was in music, but I have since obtained a doctorate in nursing practice.

This means that I LOVE to research and pass along credible information to my readers, especially as it pertains to the science of playing the piano. In other words, I am constantly looking for the crossroads between art and science.

And because there’s an absurd amount of inaccurate information out there, my goal is always to cut through the crap to present you with only the truly useful stuff.

The Book

With all that being said, I recently stumbled across a fantastic book written by a development molecular biologist named John Medina. His mission in writing the book is to bring forth simplified research findings of how the brain works to the general public.

The book is called Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. And although the book is not written specifically for pianists, I feel it is both relevant and crucial information to anyone interested in upgrading their piano skills.

The Research

For me, one of the very first things that struck a chord about the book is Medina’s equal attention to quality. All research he presents must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal. This means that it must pass an extremely rigorous process to make sure the information is scientifically accurate.

Medina then requires the research to be repeated, meaning it wasn’t simply some type of fluke. He then takes it further by boiling the research down to information that anyone can understand.

As someone who has read countless peer-reviewed articles, believe me when I say that researchers don’t write for clarity! Deciphering this type of writing is an art in itself. And so, I appreciate Medina’s mission to present high-level research to anyone in plain English with a side of humor.

The Brain

This sounds crazy, but despite massive research advances over the past century or so, we still understand little about the brain’s inner workings.

To put it into perspective, Medina makes this comment, “In truth, if we ever fully understood how the human brain knew how to pick up a glass of water, it would represent a major achievement.”

Take a minute to process that statement. We still don’t even understand the fundamental task of how the brain takes us from thirst to drinking. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

And if we don’t understand something as simple as picking up a glass, we are lightyears from a solid understanding of something as complex as playing the piano.

Although I don’t promise a complete understanding of the complex interplay between cognition, memory, muscle, and emotion that occurs when playing piano, my goal is to present a few of my aha moments from the book.

And as the title suggests, my goal is to present brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing. But keep in mind that Medina’s brain rules apply to life in general.

So take this gift of knowledge and apply it liberally, both at and away from the keyboard. And if you’re thirsting for more, make sure you pick up the book for yourself. I promise that it’s both exciting and informative, and you will come away with tips to improve your life and relationships.

And so, without further ado, let’s dig into brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing!

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Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing: Exercise is Key

I promise to come back around to the piano in a minute but first, let me take you on a detour with my alter ego in the healthcare field. My career in healthcare started in the nursing home. And to this day, my practice continues to be based in this setting.

What this means for you is that I have extensive experience working with a population heavily impacted by cognitive decline. So much so that up until a few years ago, I never realized the significant bias I had developed by my work in the nursing home.

You may be asking yourself what cognitive decline has to do with playing the piano. My response to you would be that it has everything to do with it. Playing the piano begins and ends with cognition.

And by understanding the factors that impact healthy cognition, you can understand how to become a better pianist.

My Anecdotal Evidence

Until a few years ago, my only frame of reference for people older than 80 had been exceptionally frail people who seemed to show a steady pattern of physical and mental decline.

And so, imagine my surprise when I began my outpatient clinical rotation and was suddenly introduced to a whole new world of older patients. These were patients well into their 80s and 90s who continued to lead full and vibrant lives. They were driving, working, and even functioning as (gasp!) organists for large congregations.

I distinctly remember almost falling off my chair when one particularly delightful 90 something-year-old told me that he continued to mow his own 1+ acre lawn. With a push mower.

Mind. Blown.

This was the moment when my curiosity around the distinctly different outcomes in aging was first sparked. It left me questioning whether there are distinct actions people can either take or avoid to preserve cognition over time.

And although countless factors ultimately contribute to cognitive function over time, something deep inside whispered that this 90-something push mowing his lawn was on to something.

The Research

It turns out that my hunch was correct. According to Medina, “A lifetime of exercise can result in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.”

And he goes on to describe research-proven time and again that points to an improvement in areas including long-term memory, attention, problem-solving, and even fluid intelligence in people who consistently exercise.

If you’re thinking those skills are suspiciously similar to those needed for playing piano, then you too are on to something!

You may be asking yourself what this means if you haven’t exercised regularly up to this point in your life. Hang on because I’ve got some great news for you!

As a whole, research supports the idea that even if you haven’t been a regular exerciser in your life, it’s never too late to start. And bumps in cognition come with even relatively mild exercise regimens.

Exercise has proven to preserve cognition over time, and there is also research to support its effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression.

I’m not sure about you, but this might be one of my favorite brain hacks to improve your piano playing!

Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing: Make it Exciting!

Would it surprise you to learn that our brain ignores boring things? And yet, how much attention do we give to making our learning experiences, including piano practice, interesting?

Zero.

Up until recently, I’ve had a very dull approach to practice. My practice sessions start with a scale warm-up or two, move on to some technical practice, and finish with one or two repertoire pieces.

Repetition has historically been at the core of what I do in the practice room. And I suspect many (if not most!) pianists have been conditioned to take the same humdrum approach to their practice.

It does leave you wondering whether all this boring practice does anything to advance your skills.

The Research

The short answer is no. According to Medina, “The more attention the brain pays to a given stimulus, the more elaborately the information will be encoded – and retained.” In other words, “Better attention always equals better learning.”

Not only does improved attention translate to better retention, but our attention spans have a very short expiration date. As a general rule of thumb, sustained attention is only maintained for about 10 minutes before our mind starts wandering.

Given that my practice sessions typically last around 30 minutes, how much am I actually retaining? Most importantly, how can I improve retention to make the most of my practice time?

Improve Retention With Short Practice Segments

My first thought comes straight from Medina’s lecture model as described in the book. Given our short attention span, chunk material into 10-minute sections.

Spend the first minute on a broad concept and the next nine looping in details related to the larger one. Once the 10 minutes are up, start with another broad concept.

For example, spend 10 minutes on a very specific task, such as improving rhythm in section A rather than attempting to improve all aspects of an entire piece over that same time frame. And once the 10 minutes are up, move on to the next clear-cut practice task.

Incorporate Emotion Into Practice

Any time you can incorporate emotion into learning, retention will be enhanced. To demonstrate this phenomenon, think back to a song that holds special meaning for you.

I’m willing to bet that every time you hear that song, you’re flooded with a very specific emotion. Whether it’s your wedding song or a break-up anthem, you probably go right back to a distinct time in your life whenever you hear it.

My suggestion for you is to attach emotion to your playing. Hone in on a unique feeling with every section. And get creative with this. Don’t limit yourself to happy, sad, or mad.

Try incorporating euphoria, despair, and angst into your playing. Maybe spend time differentiating between just how different you can make “boredom” and “apathy” sound.

Find the Meaning

Our brains love patterns. And any time you can make a connection between new and previously learned information, retention becomes both more accessible and potent.

My previous post lists a couple of resources for creating meaning in playing the piano. One involves creating a visual map of a piece, and the other consists of brushing up on music theory. Both are fantastic ways to transform tiny figures on a page into a compelling musical performance.

Check out the post here.

Other Thoughts on Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing

It’s difficult to articulate all the valuable information contained within this one book. But if there’s one thing to take away, it would be that our brains are designed to solve problems by exploring.

In the (admittedly somewhat morbid) words of my favorite Downton character, Violet Crawley, “All life is a series of problems which we must try and solve, first one and then the next and then the next until at last, we die.”

Our brains have been helping us navigate complex problems for centuries. We learn by doing. And by exploring.

So I would encourage you to keep trying. Keep searching for ways to improve. Look for unconventional ways to improve your piano practice. Experiment. Play what you love. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to be creative.

If you’re a classical pianist, try jazz. Or improvisation. You could even try your hand at composition.

And get some sleep! Medina has an entire chapter devoted to the massive impact sleep has on learning.

Most importantly, you can conveniently get your copy of Brain Rules by clicking the picture below.

It’s Your Turn

I hope you have found a few brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing after reading this post! If you’re looking for more inspiration and piano playing resources, make sure to check out my previous posts:

And that’s it for this week. As always, I wish you all the best in the practice room and beyond!

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SkillShare for Pianists: 2 Classes Guaranteed to Advance Your Skills

SkillShare for Pianists: 2 Classes Guaranteed to Advance Your Skills

Do you long to advance your knowledge of music theory without breaking the bank? Maybe you’d love to get better at jazz, improv, or compose your own piece someday.

Or perhaps you’ve struggled with memorization. You’ve tried over and over again, but somehow you can never quite seem to master a piece entirely from memory.

Or, if you’re like me, you’ve periodically struggled with both throughout your musical journey.

Today I’m ecstatic to introduce you to an online learning platform that has classes guaranteed to advance your piano skills!

The platform is called SkillShare, and it offers diverse classes ranging from cooking to photography to productivity. I recently learned of the platform in a podcast, and the concept immediately struck a chord.

Although I had heard that there are a huge variety of niches on the platform, I was especially eager to explore SkillShare for pianists!

And after checking it out, I was so impressed with the quality of the instruction and the range of videos that I immediately applied to become an affiliate.

I knew that I had to share this gift with others interested in self-improvement, whether specifically at the keyboard or in life. Enjoy the post but don’t stop there. I invite you to take the next step toward reaching your goals by clicking the link below.

Now let’s get to SkillShare for pianists!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as affiliates of SkillShare and 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.

SkillShare for Pianists: The Secrets of How to Memorize Music

Does watching videos of people playing piano completely from memory make you feel jealous? Have you always wanted to play the piano from memory but can never quite pull it off?

If you’ve always fantasized about learning how to memorize but continue to struggle, then this class is for you!

Taught by Jeeyoon Kim, The Secrets of How to Memorize Music goes behind the scenes of memorization. Kim, a classical pianist and teacher, covers various topics designed to help you master memorization. She gives insight into the tips and tricks that will take you from beginner to confident memorizer throughout the class.

This course is of particular interest to me because I have a love/hate relationship with memorizing music. Throughout my college years, I struggled with memorization. And as a piano major, I was expected to perform without music in front of me. Shaky memorization led to even more unstable performances and, ultimately, significant anxiety at the mere thought of performing.

Flash forward to my post-college years when I desperately wanted to retain my identity as a pianist. I re-dedicated myself to the art of piano playing. But along with a commitment to the craft came memorization.

I believe that there are aspects of musicianship that no one can ever fully master in a lifetime. And some skills are always more accessible than others. But for me, memorizing has become more attainable thanks to this class. Read on for the specific transformations I believe are possible for you, too, thanks to this class.

Develop Memorization as a Skill

Watching a truly great pianist perform from memory feels magical. Their command, stage presence, and skill feel amplified by their ability to play challenging repertoire entirely from memory. It can leave you wondering whether you have the talent to memorize music.

You can stop all that wondering and second-guessing because I’m here to tell you that you absolutely CAN memorize music!

The truth is that memorization is a skill. Similar to learning scales, dynamics, or key signatures, it’s a skill that requires practice. And as such, there are ways to make memorization easier.

Throughout the class, Kim gives you the memory hacks no one else talks about. Her inspirational message is that regardless of your skill level, you can successfully memorize music. It all starts with a solid understanding of how memory works and a great example of SkillShare for pianists!

Gain a Deeper Understanding of Memory

Your journey into memorization starts with the different types of memory, and Kim specifically mentions sensory, short, and long-term memory.ng-term memory. The memorization process always begins with short-term memory, and short-term is the most fleeting type of memory and therefore not particularly reliable for any length of time.

Your goal is to transition memories from short to long-term storage where they are more secure. This is the type of memory from which musicians playing from memory are drawing from.

And once a piece is thoroughly explored and secure in your long-term “bank,” you can play from a place of freedom.

While we’re on the topic of memory, I will mention a fantastic book written by Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist. The book is called Brain Rules, and it outlines 12 foundational principles for how our brains work.

In his chapter on memory, Medina echoes tenets outlined by Kim in her class. More specifically, each touts the importance of short practice sessions and constantly working on memory retrieval.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply remember. You must also practice bringing forth that memory. I won’t give away Kim’s secrets but believe me when I say that Kim does an incredible job of illuminating how to work with, instead of against, your brain. SkillShare for pianists doesn’t get much better than this!

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Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Music

I’m not sure about you, but my previous efforts at memorization focused solely on playing something over and over and over again. Although I’m not going to argue that repetition is important, there are ways to make it enjoyable and effective.

And one of the best ways to do this is through pattern recognition. Your brain loves patterns!

Make it Meaningful

And according to Medina, the more meaningful you can make the information, the easier it is to remember. This recommendation is also echoed by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool in their book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Ericsson spent his entire career studying people at the top of their fields, and his most exciting work involved studying people who could hear a long string of unrelated numbers and repeat them back.

Ericsson found that people who are the best at reciting back unbelievably long number chains do so by attaching some type of extra meaning to those numbers. In other words, they did not simply memorize by rote. They came up with an alternate way to remember sections and then wove them back together again.

Make it Creative

And in her class on memorization, Kim recommends attaching meaning by creating a visual map. She guides you through looking at a piece and creating a short-hand visual representation of the piece. By engaging your creativity around the piece in this way, your memory becomes robust and resilient. It allows you to recall specifics that may otherwise fall by the wayside when trying to memorize solely from rote.

Even beyond learning the mechanics of memorization, Kim proves to be an encouraging and engaging teacher. She continually emphasizes the point that memorization is difficult for everyone. But at the end of the day, memorization is crucial to a higher level of creativity and freedom than could ever be achieved otherwise.

And speaking of higher levels of creativity and freedom, let’s move on to music theory!

SkillShare for Pianists: Music Theory Comprehensive

Ok, ok. Music theory may not immediately come to mind when I say “creativity” and “freedom,” but stick with me for a minute.

Music, like most things in life, comes with its own set of rules. Rules to organize melody, harmony, and rhythm. These rules provide guidelines for how music works, and they give you a deeper understanding of how music is constructed.

And with understanding comes meaning. The type of meaning that makes memorization easier because there are fewer options from which to choose once you understand the rules. Fewer options mean stronger memory retention and recall. And stronger memory recall means creativity and freedom.

See how it all works together?

Whether your music theory knowledge comes from your hometown piano teacher, college courses years ago, or somewhere in between, be assured that you can conjure it forth once again.

Even if you’ve never gone in-depth with theory before, it’s never too late to start. And Jason Allen’s course is hands down the one with which to begin! It’s yet another outstanding SkillShare for pianists option.

The Class

Although there are many ways to learn music theory, learning from a reputable instructor is arguably the best. And Allen has the reputation to back up his instruction.

With a Ph.D. in music composition, Allen has not only composed for the Minnesota Orchestra but was a semi-finalist for the 2014 Grammy Foundation’s Music Editor of the Year. He’s been teaching music theory at the college level for years and truly knows his stuff.

The course itself is, therefore, his entire music theory curriculum presented in 17 separate parts. The first part covers the absolute basics of reading music, such as note names, clefs, and dynamics. Later classes cover harmonization, composition, and every music student’s favorite topic … modulation. It’s difficult to come up with a topic a pianist would need to know that’s not covered somewhere in this course.

When Allen says comprehensive, he truly means it!

Benefits of Learning Music Theory

I’m going to throw a bit of honesty your way right now. Despite studying music theory in college for 2 years, I’m embarrassed to admit that relatively little has stuck with me.

And although it’s true that as a nurse practitioner, I don’t often have to harmonize melodies or compose SATB pieces, I love music and want to expand my horizons. For quite some time now, I’ve had this nagging feeling that memorization would be simpler if I had a more solid grasp on the subject.

After reading Brain Rules and completing Kim’s class, my suspicions are confirmed. A better understanding of music theory will help me form more secure patterns and enhance my recall, thus streamlining memorization.

And according to Ian over at Thrive Piano, learning theory strengthens sight reading skills, accuracy, and improvisation. I don’t think anyone can argue with those benefits!

Why You Need This Class

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I strongly believe in mastering music theory as a way to boost your piano skills. And this class is the perfect answer to your question of how to learn music theory because it’s divided into sections. You have the freedom to pick and choose which sections would most benefit you and skip the rest.

Allen has even created a variety of projects throughout the course to strengthen your theory skills.

And his interactive style makes the class engaging, so you’ll never worry about your mind wandering off halfway through a video. Videos are typically concise, so you don’t even need a huge daily commitment to start making progress.

And lastly, I’m a huge believer in self-directed courses. Especially when they’re taught by experts in the field and accessible at a reasonable price. It’s truly a win-win!

Why You Need SkillShare for Pianists

Now it’s your turn to dish. What skill have you been longing to improve? Maybe you’d love to learn jazz piano. Or perhaps you’ve been looking for advice on upping your freelance game. Maybe you’re struggling with productivity and time management.

Regardless of what’s lacking in your life at this moment, SkillShare has a potential solution for you!

SkillShare has an incredible range of courses taught by highly qualified instructors, and more are added every day. The site offers the opportunity to advance your knowledge in everything from cooking to photography to drawing. Even if you’ve completely mastered music memorization and theory (no small feat!), there’s something for you.

Whether you’re looking for SkillShare for pianists or something a little different, give it a try! Click the link below to get started.

And if you were intrigued by the books above, check them out on Amazon:

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If you’re looking for more piano inspiration and resources, check out any of the following posts:

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post or your piano journey in general. Have you been struggling with something that you just can’t seem to overcome? And what have been your recent triumphs? Drop a comment below with your thoughts!

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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.

Don’t have a microphone yet? Check out this microphone for easy, no fuss recording!

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!

The ONE Thing: A Case for Narrowing Your Focus

The ONE Thing: A Case for Narrowing Your Focus

“If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither one.”

Russian Proverb

If you’re a blogger, a business owner, or someone with varied interests, I’m sure you’ve heard the advice before. “Find your one thing and channel all your energy into it. Niche down or fail.”

Take a look around, and you’ll see countless examples of wildly successful people. Presumably successful because they’ve gone all-in on their ONE thing at the expense of all else.

As I write this, the summer 2021 Olympics are just wrapping up. And if you think about it, can there possibly be a better example of niching down than an Olympic athlete?

Decades of hard work, sacrifice, and intense focus all come down to one moment. ONE moment that ends in either joyful celebration or heartbreakingly devastating defeat.

And if you’re anything like me, this extreme example is precisely why the advice to niche down falls on deaf ears. I don’t argue the fact that intense focus yields extraordinary results.

It’s the other half of the equation, or the loss of everything else at the expense of that ONE thing, that scares me.

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.

A Tale of Multiple Interests

I’ve always had an array of potentially all-consuming interests. As an example, my full-time gig is as a nurse practitioner, but I also have a fine arts degree in music.

I started this blog to indulge my love of writing and personal development, but I also moonlight as an organist in a few local churches. And let’s not forget my fascination for anything involving horses but especially the art of dressage.

One could argue that perhaps I put a little too much stock in that old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

I thrive on variety.

But at times, it feels like I can’t move ahead in anything because my focus is so broad. And to make things even murkier, throw a husband, 3 kids, and the weight of maintaining a house in the mix.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that some days feel like slogging through a lake of molasses in January.

I’ll be the first to admit that the sludge is my own doing through a failure to pare anything down. And my resolve to excel in various fields has only been spurred on by works like Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.

But sometimes, the chaos of chasing so many dreams drags you down. It causes you to look around for an alternate perspective. ONE perspective to fit all those individual puzzle pieces into a cohesive picture.

I found such a perspective in The ONE Thing by Gary Keller.

Success Comes from Subtraction Rather Than Addition

“Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.”

Gary Keller

The ONE Thing is a book that frequents top 10 personal development lists. It’s mentioned over and over by self-help gurus.

The book is written by Gary Keller, founder of the largest real estate company in the world. An internet search reveals his net worth of around $35 million.

Keller describes his success as partially attributable to figuring out the ONE thing that makes everything else easier. And once you figure out that ONE thing, everything else falls into place.

Success, therefore, comes from weeding out the excess rather than taking more on. It’s a simple matter of subtraction rather than addition.

And the concept of doing less is a refreshing one in a culture constantly preaching the philosophy of doing more.

There is No Such Thing as Multitasking

Did you know that multitasking is a myth? It’s physically impossible for your brain to process two conscious thoughts at once effectively.

To prove my point, try this little experiment. In your head, add up 546 and 376 at the same time you spell OUTSTANDING aloud.

Did you do it? If so, you might have superpowers!

But if you weren’t successful, take heart. You’re human! Our brains aren’t designed to consciously perform multiple functions simultaneously.

There are tasks that your brain has learned to automate, such as walking and chewing gum. But neither job typically requires deep thought.

True success, however, comes from the type of sustained focus that can only be achieved by blocking out all distractions. Regardless of your end goal, breaking each step into pieces and focusing solely on the tiny action steps is crucial.

Mastery is More of a Journey

“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason, mastery demands all of a person.”

Albert Einstein

Do you know the one thing that the most successful people in the world all have in common?

They never give up. No matter what life throws in their way. They keep moving forward towards their ultimate goal of mastery.

Successful people realize that success isn’t about a destination. It’s a journey.

Success means showing up day after day. It means putting in the work even when it’s unattractive, demanding, or boring.

It also means blocking out all else to become truly great at their ONE thing. Sometimes that means permanently shelving other passions or interests for the sake of moving forward in one specific area.

At other times, success means scaling back on other interests for a season to clear space for that ONE thing which will then make everything else easier.

A great example of this is pursuing a degree. Being in school means devoting large chunks of time to school-related activities. And because we all have the same 24 hours in a day, you typically must cut down on other activities to ensure success in your academic program. But the hope is that once you finish, your higher level of income will then support your various interests.

And the journey to mastery never ends because there’s ALWAYS another level. There’s always another post to publish, sales quota to meet, or product idea waiting to be created.

Mastery means breaking barriers and pushing limits, both complex tasks when your attention is spread too widely.

Balance Doesn’t Exist When Pursuing Your ONE Thing

I may have mentioned this before, but my interests have bounced around dramatically for most of my life. Although they have all remained relatively stable, there are certain times of my life when I pursue one more strongly than the others.

And I’ve found that I tend to chase interests at the neglect of all others. Although I make progress in one area, I then felt a sense of guilt about the others due to the lack of progress.

It had me questioning balance and whether I was setting myself up for a life of hopeless imbalance.

This again inspired a bit of guilt, and so the cycle continued.

Fortunately, Keller’s philosophy on balance differs from most of social media. He asserts that there can be no balance when you’re genuinely pursuing your ONE thing because success depends upon excluding anything that doesn’t involve that thing.

Imbalance naturally follows mastery.

It’s a strangely profound and comforting reassurance that my efforts are not entirely off base.

Living Without Regrets

“A life worth living might be measured in many ways, but the one that stands above all others is living a life of no regrets.”

Gary Keller

Although there are many great takeaway messages from the book, one of the most powerful is to create a life free of regrets. And as someone with a huge variety of interests, it can be easy to make excuses rather than feel the sting of regret.

Excuses about why I’m not as far along as I’d like to be in a particular area. Or excuses about my limited ability to devote time to any one pursuit.

But the benefit of applying all your focus to ONE thing is that your power is magnified. Focus means you find that thing and forget the rest. And by doing this, you can look back and know that you gave it your all.

Not some half-hearted attempt at trying. Or a bunch of excuses about why you never achieved your goal.

You have the satisfaction of knowing you either succeeded or gave it your all in the attempt.

How to Apply The ONE Thing to Your Life

I’ll admit that I was skeptical when starting this book. Mainly because I consider myself to be multi-passionate, and I initially didn’t care for the thought of giving anything up.

On the other hand, I adore seeing progress! I love being able to look back at where I started and tell that my hard work has made a difference.

And thanks to having my hands in so many pots, I’ve not had that type of satisfaction as often as I would like. Even before reading the book, frustration over not making significant strides has caused me to contemplate simplifying my life a tad.

I’m a firm believer that you shouldn’t read personal development unless you intend to improve your life. There’s so much value out there if you’re willing to open your mind to alternative perspectives.

And with that being said, The ONE Thing has encouraged me to narrow my focus to improve my impact. The following are specific ways in which I intend to implement what I learned.

If you too struggle with feeling spread too thin, check out the book. Try a few of these tactics and watch your outlook (and feelings of accomplishment!) dramatically improve.

Accept Chaos

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent your entire life avoiding chaos. You love wrapping things up into neat little packages.

But the flip side is that you likely feel stressed when life doesn’t go as planned. You spend so much energy fighting the chaos that you have little left over for actually living.

It’s time to release your need for control. Fighting the chaos isn’t getting you anywhere, so why not embrace it?

Accept that when you focus intensely on one thing, everything else gets put on the back burner.

I’m not saying you should forget about your husband and kids to focus solely on starting your business. Or let your house return to its natural state of decay while you spend hours happily blogging away (guilty as charged on this one!).

But I am saying you can expect chaos in your life when you choose to narrow your focus. And that’s ok.

Time Blocking for Your ONE Thing

Throughout his book, Keller embraces the concept of time blocking. If you’re not familiar, it involves dedicating larger chunks of time to very specific activities.

His more specific recommendation is to chunk out at least 4 hours each day for your ONE thing. He does acknowledge that you may have legitimate reasons why you may need to shorten your daily time allotment.

The main point is that you need to prioritize the activities that will promote progress in your ONE thing.

Question Everything

“What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Gary Keller

Throughout the book, Keller refers to the ONE question you need to ask yourself to stay on track.

He recommends asking yourself this question first thing in the morning and periodically checking in with yourself throughout the day. Questioning yourself ensures you stick to the straight and narrow path of focus.

It also helps to cut down or eliminate all those little unnecessary distractors we all engage in throughout the day by forcing you to remain accountable.

For me, those distractors include checking email, Facebook and stopping to chat with people during the day.

Time is our most valuable resource, and we have to protect it continually, or it vanishes without a single thing to show for its presence.

Say “No”

And speaking of priorities, Keller is very clear about the need to say “no.” A lot.

You must keep your ONE thing front and center. Consider everything else a distraction.

As a serial people pleaser, saying “no” is sometimes incredibly difficult for me. But hearing that saying “no” is crucial to my overall success somehow takes the stigma out of it.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say again that it’s refreshing to hear the message of less rather than more as a secret for success.

Toast Your Wins

As a high achiever, I have a difficult time celebrating success. I tend to jump from accomplishment to accomplishment with scarcely a breath in between.

Despite Keller’s advice on buckling down and focusing on the task at hand, he implores you to celebrate your wins. Big or small, I wholeheartedly agree.

If you don’t take the time to enjoy life, what’s the point of working hard? Without celebration, life turns into one obligation after another on a fast track to burnout.

For your quality of life, you absolutely must celebrate those milestones!

It’s Your Turn to Find Your ONE Thing

Whether you’re trying to balance a full-time career with a side gig, have too many hobbies, or anything in between, I truly hope you found this post helpful!

Despite my initial reluctance to dive into the book, I have to admit that it was well worth the read. I’ve already started implementing a plan to narrow my focus, accept chaos, and toast my wins, big and small.

For even more great advice, make sure you check out The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. Below are a couple of additional books I consider essential reading for high-achievers.

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As always, make sure to leave a comment below with your thoughts on the post. Are you struggling with multipotentialite tendencies? Have you ever considered narrowing your focus? And what would you need to get started on your journey toward more tremendous success?

5 Powerful Ways to Halt Limiting Beliefs in their Tracks

5 Powerful Ways to Halt Limiting Beliefs in their Tracks

As the name implies, limiting beliefs are beliefs that hold you back in some area of your life. These beliefs about yourself or the world keep you stuck in toxic patterns of guilt, sadness, and inadequacy.

They keep you from flourishing into the person you’re meant to be.

Limiting beliefs live deep in your subconscious, fueling fear and driving your decision-making.

And do you want to know the worst part?

The fact that limiting beliefs stem from your subconscious rather than your thinking mind means that identifying and reversing them can be tricky.

Tricky but NOT impossible!

Stick with me as we unpack limiting beliefs, including examples, where they come from, and most importantly, powerful ways to reduce their influence in your 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.

One Shark and Several Fish

Have you heard of the shark and fish experiment?

It’s a potent example of how limiting beliefs can replace even the most fundamental instincts.

As the story goes, a marine biologist decided to see whether a shark could be conditioned to stop eating fish.

The biologist started by putting a shark in a tank with small fish. Obviously, the shark ate the fish.

The next step was to create a physical boundary between the shark and fish. As you can imagine, the shark made an aggressive attack on the plexiglass, initially injuring itself.

The shark continued its fruitless attacks on the fish. Eventually, the shark’s attacks grew less and less aggressive.

After a while, the marine biologist removed the plexiglass.

And guess what?

Not one fish was harmed. The shark did not attempt to attack even though the physical boundary was gone.

With the plexiglass gone, the shark could have feasted to its heart’s content. But the shark couldn’t overcome the limiting beliefs that overrode its basic survival instincts and eventually died.

Unfortunately, the same thing can happen to our dreams and goals if we don’t identify and breakthrough our self-constructed barriers.

What are limiting beliefs?

In most instances, limiting beliefs are formed in early childhood. At the most basic level, limiting beliefs start as the brain’s attempt at rationalizing a situation.

Let’s look at a widespread limiting belief that millions all over the world share: “I am not important.”

When you were growing up, how many times did you ask for your parents’ attention? I’m guessing it’s somewhere around the millions.

For whatever reason, your parents were unable to give you the attention you were seeking at that moment. And they may have had a perfectly legitimate reason for not paying attention.

But at that moment, your little brain came up with a story. A story that has stuck with you to this day.

And the story deep down inside is that you don’t matter.

Since that time, the thought that you’re not important has become so deeply ingrained within that it runs on autopilot. Much like the shark hitting the plexiglass, you’ve constructed stories that keep you from reaching your full potential.

Limiting Beliefs as a Safety Mechanism

Although I’ve painted a grim picture of limiting beliefs as a whole, it’s worth mentioning that they do serve as a safety mechanism. They keep us from inherently questionable decisions like picking up a random hitchhiker or stealing an ATM.

To backtrack a bit, when you boil down the most basic of all brain functions, safety is the #1 priority. It’s your brain’s job to keep you safe.

And although you may be aware of this primary function of the subconscious, seeing it in action isn’t always obvious. But your subconscious is constantly on the alert for potentially “dangerous” situations.

Over time, the definition of “dangerous” has changed drastically. Danger used to mean an attack from a saber tooth tiger or a gang of marauding pirates.

But nowadays, danger comes in the form of public speaking, a job interview, or even a difficult conversation with your spouse. It’s a far cry from the immediate threat of life or limb.

And to be fair, the constant processing of environmental stimuli is a tremendous job. It’s way too big for the conscious mind to tackle, thus the reason for the subconscious.

But when the subconscious picks up on negative emotions, it feeds stories to the conscious in an attempt to keep you far from danger.

The Fine Line Between Safety and Stagnation

And when your subconscious picks up on negativity, those limiting beliefs come out in full force. They form a barrier that can be difficult to overcome.

In days gone by, the barrier would be a good thing. It would’ve kept you alive.

But in today’s world, the barrier keeps you from honestly expressing yourself or going all-in on something you’re passionate about. Negativity, therefore, starts a feedback loop fueled by fear and false stories you’ve concocted based on events you may not even have fully understood at the time.

Although the stories were created when you were young, it’s never too late to reverse them.

Let’s explore how you can halt limiting beliefs in their tracks!

How can you expand your limiting beliefs?

It’s difficult to reverse limiting beliefs about yourself unless you’re crystal clear on what those beliefs are. Asking yourself a series of questions and capturing the responses by putting pen to paper is hands down your best bet.

It turns out that writing is one of the best ways to unite the logical left brain with the creative right. This “whole-brain” approach is an effective way to access complex emotions and thought patterns. A

In other words, journaling connects the two parts of your brain in a way that enables you to understand yourself and the world around you more deeply.

If you haven’t already incorporated journaling into your daily routine, now is the time! Let’s walk through how you can apply this powerful technique to unlock your limiting beliefs.

Step 1: Uncover Your Limiting Beliefs Through Journaling

In the first step, you will consider the various areas of your life and determine where you’re at in this moment.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the goals I’m working toward? (self, home, work, relationships, hobbies, etc.)
  • Am I satisfied with the progress I’m making in each of these areas?
  • Are the results in each area consistent with where I would like to be?
  • And are there areas where I would like to make progress but just can’t seem to get ahead?

Step 1 is a brainstorming session. Now is NOT the time to censor yourself!

Remember that no one has to read what you’re putting on paper. The most crucial piece of uncovering your emotions and thought processes is honesty with yourself.

Step 2: Analyze Your Writing

As you write, pay close attention to your mood and energy levels when you think about all the different aspects of your life. If you have particularly negative thoughts or feelings about something, consider those feelings a red flag for limiting beliefs.

Equally important are your explanations about why you’re not getting results because those stories almost always have their roots in limiting beliefs.

As you think about what you’ve written, carefully consider whether the stories you’re telling yourself are serving you in any way.

Remember all that stuff about the subconscious and safety? This is where all that comes into play. As an example, one of my most deeply rooted limiting beliefs is that I’m not good enough.

This belief manifests itself as significant performance anxiety in my work as a pianist. Although I love playing the piano, the limiting belief that I’m not good enough causes my hands to shake and my heart to beat faster.

Both physical reactions make playing accurately infinitely more challenging.

Deep down, my subconscious has hard-wired feelings of inadequacy, resulting in physical changes in a performance situation. And all this happens because my brain interprets fear as a negative emotion to be avoided at all costs.

Step 3: Flip the Script

Once you uncover your core limiting beliefs, it’s time to challenge those thoughts. Remember that most of your limiting beliefs were formed in early childhood when your understanding of the world around you was incredibly limited.

And seeing them written in black and white in front of you has a way of uncovering them as the lies they’ve always been. Because your thoughts are deeply personal, it’s easy to believe that thoughts are truth.

But in most cases, thoughts are simply thoughts. Neither positive nor negative. It’s only when you assign some type of meaning to them that they can exert their influence one way or the other.

Writing your own script, therefore, becomes crucial.

For each limiting belief you uncover, use your story-telling prowess to concoct a belief that positively serves you.

Step 4: Find the Evidence

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

Once you’ve come up with a new story, it’s time to solidify it. You can lock the new story in by looking for evidence around you that supports your more positive belief system.

And it may sound crazy, but there’s an area of the brain designed specifically for this task.

It’s called the reticular activating system, and its job is to filter out millions of stimuli to find those most relevant to you. B

The reticular activating system is why you hear your name in a noisy room. Or why you buy a red car and suddenly see red cars everywhere.

We recently added a Goldendoodle puppy to our family. Before bringing him home, I rarely saw other doodles out and about. Since his addition to our family, I see at least one doodle wherever I go.

And the truth is, doodles were always everywhere. But until getting one, my reticular activating system never alerted me to their presence.

What this means for you is that if you look for evidence to support your positive beliefs, you’ll find it. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. And up until now, your reticular activating system has been programmed to find evidence supporting your limiting beliefs.

Step 5: Personal Development

I’m not here to sugarcoat anything. Reversing your limiting beliefs takes work. This process takes serious effort! But the alternative is to stay stuck in a negative cycle of guilt and inadequacy.

Ain’t no one got time for that!

As you create new belief patterns and are looking for evidence to support those narratives, don’t underestimate the power of personal development.

Whether in the form of blogs, podcasts, or even masterminds, filling your mind with positivity is powerful.

I also highly recommend paying attention to your mood and energy levels. If your mood and energy are low, it’s much easier to get sucked into being a negative Nelly.

It becomes difficult to break out of your comfort zone and away from those tired old limiting beliefs. Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is something I can’t recommend highly enough.

It’s the key between telling yourself that you matter and actually feeling as if you matter.

If you’re looking for some quality personal development, check out some of my top posts:

And if you’re looking for further inspiration, make sure you check out my top book recommendations:

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Feel free to drop a comment below with the limiting beliefs you’re struggling with right now. I’d love to support you on your journey toward a more positive inner (and outer) world!

A: Purcell, M. (2016, May 17). The Health Benefits of Journaling. The Health Benefits of Journaling (psychcentral.com)

B: van Schneider, T. (2017, June 22). If you want it, you just might get it. The reticular activating system explained. If you want it, you might get it. The Reticular Activating System explained | by Tobias van Schneider | Desk of van Schneider | Medium