How the pandemic can help your performance

It’s been a tough year for musicians.  

No concerts. No ensemble rehearsals.  Lessons, if they’ve happened at all, have been distanced.

With no one to perform for, deadlines seem artificial and it’s been difficult to keep our practice consistent.

It can feel like haven’t been growing.

But we have.  

In this difficult year, we’ve been developing a different set of skills.

Resilience.  Self-awareness.  Emotional management.

These are skills that the best musicians and athletes hone as part of their routine, and they are skills that you can practice with more intent.  Here’s how.

1. Acknowledge

Your feelings are real and valid.  We have been cut off from much of what we loved most about music—the camaraderie of rehearsal, the rewards of performance, the mentors who challenged us and helped us to grow.  That is HARD.  Give yourself permission to feel that.

Something funny happens when you allow that permission: it takes some of the sting out.  You can finally relax and give space to the emotions you were already feeling.

Awareness of your emotional states is one of the bedrock principles of emotional self-management.

2. Manage your state

Once you’re aware of your emotions, you can start to do something about them.  That might mean you change your posture, take a few minutes to do a guided meditation, or deal with a nagging problem.

Note that state management depends on acknowledgement of your emotions.  The alternative is distraction, where we lose ourselves on social media or go to the refrigerator.  What I’m suggesting is altogether different: use your awareness to make a conscious, productive choice.

3. Get to work

Some days you feel like it, some days you don’t. The difference between the masters and the amateurs has nothing to do with motivation. It often comes down to the fact that they do the work, consistently, even when they don’t feel like it.

Every time you overcome the inertia of your emotions with conscious intentionality, you cast a vote for the type of person you want to become. Enough of these votes, and you can finally begin to believe that that’s the kind of person you are.

Consistent.  Persistent.  Resilient.

The hardest part of performance isn’t getting the notes right, it’s mastering our emotions so that we can deliver our best selves when the pressure is on.  If there were ever a time to learn to master our emotions, this is it.

The challenges before us are large, but that means the opportunities are, too.

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