I used to think that driving from Coral Springs to Miami was a long drive - definitely not for me. But now I make the commute several times a week. Did the distance between the two locations change? No. What changed was my perception that a) it was too long, and b) that I couldn't handle it.
We all set limits for ourselves, often without even realizing it. Have you ever said to yourself:
- "Getting up at 7 AM is too early."
- "Practicing my instrument for an hour a day is too long."
- "I'm too tired to listen."
- "That's too heavy to carry."
So, how do you change a belief?
Let's take the first example: "Getting up at 7 AM is too early for me."
7 AM will always be 7 AM. It come after 6 AM and before 8 AM, and that's not going to change. But you can adopt one of two approaches.
1. You can change your definition of "early." For example, you can tell yourself that instead of 7 AM being early, 5 AM is now early. Therefore, if 5 AM is early, then 7 AM is just a regular hour, and therefore getting up at 7 AM now becomes something that you can accept.
2. You can tell yourself, "Though 7 AM may be early, it's not too early for ME." You might then have the following internal dialogue:
Internal Voice 1: "Why did I think 7 AM was so early?"
Internal Voice 2: "Because I'm usually asleep at that hour!"
Internal Voice 1: "Would it be possible for me to go to sleep earlier so that I can still get enough sleep? What would be preventing me from going to sleep earlier?"
And if you need proof that this technique works, just think back to every obstacle you have ever overcome. You may not have realized this at the time, but the way you overcame those challenges was by changing the way you perceived them.
How can you apply this to your practicing?
Try the following exercise:
1. Identify a challenge for you in the current piece that you are learning. Make that challenge as specific as you can.
a) "This piece has too many intervals of thirds and I'm not good at playing them."
b) "The rhythm for this piece is too complicated and I'll never figure it out."
c) "There are too many technical sections. I'll never master them!"
2. Once you have identified the challenge, then change your perception of it.
Let's take the first one - the piece has too many intervals of thirds. Realize that this is the way the piece was written, and you are not going to be able to change it.
3. Ask yourself:
"Why are thirds difficult for me to play? Do they have to be difficult, or am I just telling myself that they're difficult for me?"
4. Change your perception.
Tell yourself, "I can't change that there are so many thirds in this piece. However, I can choose to see that thirds are not challenging to play. In fact, they are no more challenging than any other interval. With practice, I can learn to play thirds as effortlessly as I play intervals of seconds."
Remember - every single obstacle you have overcome in your life was overcome by your changing perception of the obstacle, whether you were aware of it or not!
So, as you approach new obstacles in your practicing, begin to change your perception of them. Increase your own limits, and you'll be amazed at the things you can accomplish!