I’ve met many MFD sufferers who have already tried several different retraining programs but felt that none of them worked. They kept trying, saying that the next coach, doctor, or therapist is going to make a difference, and then felt cheated and in despair over and over again.
There’s a crucial, but often overlooked part of retraining which can be the cause of all this: mindset. I’ve already written about its importance, but let’s approach it from a different angle now.
I’ve just found a fantastic TED talk, given by Carol Dweck, who is the Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. In this video, she talks about the “growth mindset”, something we can all use in our retraining programs.
Praise for a successful outcome
As children we were praised when we achieved a good grade at school, were able to recite a poem by heart or passed an exam. In our instrumental lessons, we were cherished if we played the piece flawlessly or achieved a greater tempo. We were rewarded for our intelligence and talent. This is how the school and most parents act, hoping that it will help children to thrive. This tends to create what is known as a “fixed mindset” in an individual.
Praise for effort, strategy, and more
In Prof. Dweck’s research, she created an environment where students were praised for their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance, and their participation instead of the outcome they achieved. In just one year, these students thrived and succeeded on a level which exceeded all expectations. Failing, in this case, would have been to stop trying, and not – as before – giving the wrong answers. This was a challenge attainable by all of the children in the study, and their knowledge grew without them noticing. This approach tends to create a “growth mindset”.
As children, we often learned the fixed mindset, and now we are “all right” when we produce a sound, our fingers stop curling, we can hit the key, or when we simply just play freely without any symptoms. A goal which – for many of us – seems impossible to reach.
But what if we would, just like those children, get some reward, honour, or love for trying? What if we learned to feel good just because we’re not giving up? How would that change the way we approach the instrument? Every time we try, we win. Every time we search for a solution, we’re rewarded. Every time we do our exercises, we’re loved.
That sort of mindset creates a calm, happy, and healthy attitude towards ourselves and towards our playing – even towards our condition.
And if you’re in that mindset, you’ll be able to give 100% of what you’re capable of at that point. Not more, but no less either. And that’s the way forward.