We are taught that if we practice enough, and prepare enough that we will feel prepared. I used to log the hours, do whatever I was “supposed to” and not see the results I wanted. I also felt terrible in the process. I didn't believe in myself. The following are reasons just practicing more or doing more won't change your mindset.
1. Limiting beliefs will lead to self-sabotage.
If you don’t look under the hood of your brain, it’s hard to know if your mindset is operating effectively. Specifically, do your beliefs about yourself and your potential align with your goals? If you believe that it isn’t possible for you to win the audition you’re taking, that creates cognitive dissonance when you’re putting in hours per day toward the goal you don’t believe is possible. If your underlying belief is that you’re not good enough, it will be difficult to take the quality of action required to achieve your goals.
If we don’t observe how we’re thinking, we just keep operating in the same way. We learn new actions, different ways to practice, visualize, etc., but the quality of any action we do is still being done through the lens of “not good enough.” I think of these beliefs as “belief goggles.” When we have a belief that we’ve practiced over and over, that belief colors everything we do — as though we can only see the world through those goggles. How does that affect our practice?
Our brain finds evidence for what we believe. Brains want to be efficient, and the more you’ve practiced thinking a thought/belief, the easier it is to think it. When in a practice session, if you have “I’m not good enough” goggles on, then your brain will look for evidence to prove that true. This leads to negative self-talk and generally just not feeling good in the practice room. This sort of thinking creates a lot of judgment instead of curiosity. This sets up a mental environment that doesn't feel welcome to come back to every time you practice. It makes so much sense that you don't like practicing if you judge yourself the entire time.
This thinking will lead to something I call micro-quitting. In small moments, do you dive deeper into your understanding, or think it’s okay as it is? If your brain thinks you aren’t good enough, the depth of your practice and understanding won’t be as deep. Your brain won’t think it’s worth the time and effort. This adds up little by little, it's sneaky. Fully committing to the belief that you can do it and then following through is scary. It's scary because we know that would mean putting everything we have into an audition. Managing expectation and belief in yourself are hard when you are risking rejection. It is easy to think negatively ahead of time.
2. How you practice matters more than the amount you practice.
By “how” I mean how you’re thinking when you practice. Think about it this way: the more you believe you're not good enough and practice in that mindset, the more you practice that mindset. That will shape how you feel about yourself, your abilities, and your confidence.
When you practice with criticism and harsh language, when you perform, that doesn’t go away. Reactions are practiced. If you react with disgust automatically in your practice room, your brain will do the same on stage, but be elevated (as we know our brain is hyper-aware in performance). Everyone says that we shouldn’t react to mistakes on stage, we should just “move on.” Easier said than done!
What’s the solution? Adopt neutral language in your practice sessions. Think of any error as information. Instead of saying, “ugh, that was horrible!” say, “oh, the note went up the harmonic, my air must have been going too fast.” - One helps you, and one judges you.
How does this help in performance? You can problem-solve automatically on stage. Reactions are practiced. We can change how we react to mistakes in the practice room, this will transfer much more effectively to the stage than just "trying to not be negative" while you’re up there.
3. Doing more doesn’t change your mind.
If you have a low opinion of yourself, doing more won’t change your opinion, unless YOU change your opinion.
How you think creates your emotions. Your emotions fuel your actions, and they dictate the quality of your actions. If you’re thinking you’re not good enough and you feel shame, you’re just repeating the pattern that’s always been there and practicing it. We work so hard and wonder at the end of the day why we still don’t feel like we’re good enough. This is why.
Your actions don’t change your mind. YOU change your mind. Make small changes in the way you talk to yourself. Instead of, “I’m terrible at the flute,” think, “I play the flute.” This is believable and honestly, feels much better to think than, “I’m terrible at the flute.” (insert your corresponding instrument where it applies.)
Training your brain in this way can help when positive affirmations make you roll your eyes.
4. If you’re negatively motivating yourself, you may develop Imposter Syndrome.
If you’re shaming yourself into practicing, putting yourself down, and believing that negative thinking enough that you feel compelled to practice, you’re training your brain to believe you aren’t good enough. When you get a job or win a big competition, you don’t all of a sudden forget whatever thought habits you’ve formed, your brain doesn’t suddenly rewire. It may feel great for a week or so, but your brain will come back to what it has practiced.
This can contribute to feeling like you’re still not good enough even in a big job or at a prestigious school. Learning how to motivate yourself from a place of self-love or even neutrality is the key to confidence. It doesn’t start with achievements, it starts with how you treat yourself.
And this is great news! Because you don’t have to accomplish more things in order to start feeling better.
5. Confidence doesn’t come from accomplishments.
Everyone wants to know how they can develop more confidence and self-esteem. Many people will tell you to look externally at your accomplishments and hard work to fuel your confidence. Unfortunately, external things don’t make you feel anything unless you have a thought first. So, if your practiced thought is, “I’m not doing enough,” then it doesn’t matter how many things you do, that will be your thought.
Circumstances don’t change our feelings, our thoughts do. So, if you want to feel differently (feel confident), you have
to think differently. This is the piece that so many people miss. We think that if we do XYZ or win that big audition then we’ll finally be happy and fulfilled (then it will all be worth it). But if our brain is operating the same way it always has, a different circumstance won’t solve the thought habits we have practiced.
Now, I’m not saying that practicing isn’t an important part of success, of course, it is. There is no way to get anywhere without it. However, in high-level competitions, auditions, and school auditions, having a mindset that encourages you, that has your back, is the missing ingredient. It was for me.
If you resonate with this blog post, know that you’re not alone. There are so many people silently struggling with this mentality. If this is something you’d like to change, let’s chat about how it is 100% possible for you to change your mindset. Sign up for a free discovery call and we can talk about where you are, where you want to be, and discover how to get there with mindset coaching. Click here to sign up for a free call!