In the process of not writing blogs to be "perfect," I'm going to write about the same topic over a year after I wrote about it in a previous blog. I have changed, I have grown and I have reflected on this topic in a different way.
My fascination with words has only increased as we use them to define our life experiences. So, as I hear more and more people online (as that is the way I see and interact with people in the pandemic) identify as perfectionists, I wanted to really dissect the meaning of perfection and how to think about it in a way that will be mentally healthy and still accomplish something of very high quality.
I think identifying as a perfectionist means different things to different people. This is to say that people can have different definitions of the same word.
I usually go with google as a starting point.
verb: perfect; 3rd person present: perfects; past tense: perfected; past participle: perfected; gerund or present participle: perfecting
make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible. "he's busy perfecting his bowling technique"
Just copying and pasting here. To make perfect means to be free from faults or errors. The notion of perfection is not a directive itself but what it lacks. Though this may seem like this is just semantics - it is - but I think it is interesting to think about.
If we are trying to just not do anything “wrong,” then “wrong” is our focus. What is right? That’s always up to you. The part we so often miss though is exactly what we want our work to be in its final result.
If you’re preparing for a performance, what is it that you want to convey to your audience? Is that your goal? Or is it to get the notes perfect, to be free from error? Do you believe that to be effective you need to get all the notes right? Can someone have a compelling performance and miss notes? These are extremely important to get clear on.
Technical perfection in itself - is that what you are aiming for?
What is the feeling you’re trying to convey in your performance? And how do you use all the notes in order to convey that message?
How do you use the tools at your disposal to convey your purpose? Is your purpose to be free of error? If so, your work or performance will likely lack intention. Intention and detail are the magic recipe. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more detailed person in their practice and work than me, but if I focus on not doing anything wrong, I’m at my absolute worst.
I can’t be in the present moment when I am thinking “about” myself (or what others will think of me). Why is this important? I was recently reading the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and he mentions that people in a high-performance flow state of mind cannot also be concerned with themselves as an idea outside of themselves. Or in other words, be self-conscious. To be fully involved and in the flow state, the concept of self is not a concern. People in a flow state are not concerned with what it would mean if they made a mistake. They are so busy “doing” there’s no time to be concerned with that.
But if we call ourselves perfectionists, what else are we concerned with other than ourselves doing something without error?
Perfectionism is a practice. If we are practicing self-consciousness in the practice room (or not setting a clear goal for how you want your performance to sound and clearly following that vision) then we will not be able to access that “flow” state as easily in performance.
I’ve talked to many musicians about this concept and so many people try to “enjoy” performance but are still in that self-conscious perfectionist place on stage. That’s because we are so concerned about making mistakes in the practice room. What are you making it mean if you make mistakes? Does it mean you’re not good enough? Does it mean you’re a failure? Should you not make mistakes? Should you not play the wrong notes?
Perfect practice does not make a perfect performance. There is more nuance. Thoughtful and intentional practice makes an intentional performance. Is your intention to not have errors? Or is it to touch an audience?
Food for thought :)
If you'd like to talk more about your mindset in the practice room or on stage, book a FREE consult with me!