Part 4 – Sticking with it in the long-run
Mental training is not a one-shot cure.
The secret to massive progress is in taking small, consistent actions. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Like all sorts of practice, for it to work to anywhere near its full potential you need to stick with it over time.
This is the biggest pitfall for most musicians who start on this journey. Once they realise the importance of working on this stuff, they get stuck in with the right intentions and they make a great start.
But somewhere along the way they give up and go back to how things used to be before.
Usually this happens surprisingly quickly. There hasn’t been time for much of a change in their playing in the first place. And whatever has changed hasn’t sunk in deep enough, so it quickly slips away again.
I’ll give you some examples of small, but incredibly powerful exercises once we’ve looked at how to stick with them in the long-term.
You tend to think you’ve mastered something way too early
Once you’ve made it work a couple of times in relaxed practice you feel like you’re done.
But that’s not good enough.
It needs to be practiced until it’s automatic and works under pressure.
This is true for the mechanical things you play, and it’s just as true for the skills you develop on the mental side.
The mental skills you need as a performer follow the same rule that Phillips Brooks observed about developing character:
"Some day, in the years to come, you will be wrestling with the great temptation, or trembling under the great sorrow of your life. But the real struggle is here, now… Now it is being decided whether, in the day of your supreme sorrow or temptation, you shall miserably fail or gloriously conquer. Character cannot be made except by a steady, long continued process."
But you'll probably notice a regular temptation to move on to new things.
It could be the feeling that you’ve got the mental side of things sorted now so you can go back to putting all your time into new tunes or new scales.
Or you feel like you’re on top of the current mental exercise and there’s another new mental practice tip to try out.
This is a big mistake.
The majority of skills (not just the mental ones) are over-coached and under-trained.
They need you to keep training them – to keep putting in the reps – again and again, day after day.
Every time you move on to something new, or even getting a different tip on the same exercise, you’re looking for new coaching.
This distracts you from your training. From putting in the reps.
This is hard.
This is turning pro again.
It’s a decision to drop amateur habits and pick up professional ones. An amateur shows up and does the important work occasionally. A pro shows up and does the hard work every time. Again, and again, and again.
Sure, there may be the occasional slip. But when that happens you get straight back on the horse again.
You need to develop the ability to keep taking the difficult actions. To do the things you’d prefer to avoid doing.
Grit your teeth and push through it
Lots of people think the ability to do this comes down to willpower. That if you’re tough enough, you’ll push through and stick with it through sheer determination.
That's not right.
Willpower will take you forward for a while. But then you’ll be exhausted. And it will run out.
And you’ll give up.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again.
In fact, it happened to me almost 20 years ago when I first started working with mental training.
I was so excited by the concept. I could see the potential benefits when I first learned about it. I experienced massive progress when I started to work with it. Not just my performances, but my enjoyment of performing soared.
Then it became normal.
It took an effort to stick with the practice. Other things I could be doing with my practice time (or even just dropping this bit of practice time) got more and more appealing.
My willpower ran out.
I gave up.
Despite the fact that I’d already made huge progress. Despite the fact that I continued to make huge progress. Despite the fact that I knew that this was what I needed to do to realise my full potential.
I still gave up because I couldn’t do it through willpower alone.
So how do the pros stick with it?
There’s one more big secret that the pros have.
They don’t rely on willpower.
They do everything they can to make it as easy for themselves as possible. They put systems in place to do this. And more importantly, they get PEOPLE in place to help them do it.
They have support and encouragement.
They have accountability.
And they have community.
Now you have a choice
Since you’ve read this far, I bet you’re a bit like me. You want to find that extra something and take your playing to the next level.
Over the last few pages, I’ve taken you through most of the ideas you’ll need. The question now is: what will you do with this information?
Will you go it alone?
Or do you want the sort of help that the pros have?
Because that’s what I want for you too. I want to provide you with support, accountability, and community.
I’ve got more material for you too. We’re going to go deeper into performance practice. I'm going to show you how you can develop rock-solid self-belief.
But I'm not going to share that with you just yet.
As Derek Sivers says:
“If more information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with six-pack abs.”
How you consume this information matters.
Just as you know that continuously stuffing more food into your mouth will give you indigestion, constantly consuming more information is no good if you don’t take time to digest it.
And then train on the results.
So, what happens now is that I'll send you the next lessons via email. That way you get things in a carefully planned order, one topic at a time. There are gaps between topics for you to internalise the concepts, do the exercises, and ask questions.
Don't worry - it's totally free. And you can unsubscribe at any time if you don't like the emails. I suspect you'll stick around, though.