The Trap of Perfectionism

The Trap of Perfectionism

Tricky topic, and relevant to ALL real arts: Thing will get really well only if we also can let go.
But this within the field of constant practice, and diligently facing upcoming obstacles with some discipline. All real arts are calling for that, and those who stick to it will become good only over time of practice. This is just a matter of fact, every single real professional will just confirm this.

But I think there is also something else. When we are deeply and truly inspired, than we do not need to apply lot’s of discipline. Sometimes a little is necessary, when obstacles arise, but in general we are very happy to spend hours over hours practicing, simply because we love it and we have an aspiration to go somewhere with our art.

This needs to be distinguished from a disease I call “perfectionism”. Especially when there is something else behind all our efforts, something else than just the pure love and inspiration. When we want to achieve the big levels in order to get something else. Attention maybe, or we want to fix our problems with self-love, or we just want to become famous and rich … all this is not the unconditioned love for the art itself anymore. If you belong into this category, then I would suggest to get some professional psychological help, because those issues are very deep, and they need to be healed.

But maybe it is not that severe, but we still have a hard time to let go, and we simply have a practice routine that is too tense all the time … Here, teachers like me might help:

Two aspects of arts, that people often don’t know, need to be understood:

1. Getting better and better in an art is a never ending process! Only when we compare ourself to others, especially to the real Master Players, then we might be trapped in the illusion that they are perfect and we are simply not capable. But from their perspective I am quite sure, it appears a little different. They will see that they are just some steps ahead of us. They all still practice, they improve their sound quality and all other musical skills, until the end of their lives. Just we might not be able to see that, because their skills are beyond ours. The process of refinement has no end. John Coltrane, for instance, was already THE number one saxophone player of the whole 20th century already, and it is well know that he did practice every day for hours till his last day.

2. Technically for learning the “letting go” part is very important. As humans we have the tendency that we want to have results immediately, and more than that, we like to UNDERSTAND everything even before doing something. But real learning is different. Like the pure natural learning of children.

Little children do not consider all these hows and whys, they just observe, copy and play with everything. For no specific reason! That’s how they learn so fast!

When we do whatever exercise, of course we want to be focused, and also we want to practice correctly. So for instance a scale exercise with the metronome. When we cannot play it perfectly in time, then better slow down the tempo until we are able to play them in time, and this way we do all the repetitions then.

Those exercises are not music yet, but they will influence our abilities, they will train our skills. And these skills are the foundation on which then later music can happen. In between we must give our brain and our whole system time to digest and to assimilate. This is not always possible to have full consciously. There we need to “let go”. Sleep is also very crucial for all learning procedures.

And then we also need to allow us to make mistakes. Again, consider small children. They will never be bothered by their own mistakes, only they will after they learned to be bothered … from US!

When we get able to be focused and relaxed at THE SAME TIME, then development and learning has the best chance to happen.

Music, in my opinion, is meant to have an uplifting and healing effect. But then there is also so much stress around making music, especially among those who value the true art and take it serious. Here we should all go for a change in some paradigms, and I hope, understanding psychological issues connected to learning can help.

There is an old principle, especially well know in the spiritual field:

Let go everything, then you will get everything.

We need to be patient, especially with our-selfs. It might appear paradox, but by letting go we can learn much faster and also better …

Record yourself

Finally I want to mention, that self-evaluation is also very tricky. What we think about our-self very often has nothing to do with an “external reality”. And in case of music, to research these phenomenon, just simply record yourself regularly and listen to these recordings after some time. Keep time stamps of the recordings and compare later. You will see … 😉

Enjoy your practice, your playing and keep on groovin!

All best,
Michael

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *