What connections can you make between fiddling and the rest of your daily activity?
Asking a question like this is the activity of a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset is a belief that your abilities are permanently fixed. A fixed mindset says, “I am what I am, and I’ll never change”.
A growth mindset is a belief that your abilities can be cultivated. A growth mindset says, “I can grow and change for the better.”
We all have a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. We all have the ability to grow and learn. We just have to decide to do it…
All music students face three big challenges when learning an instrument:
- Practice Challenge
- Physical Challenge
- Emotional Challenge
Understanding how mindsets work helps you to manage your emotions and overcome the third challenge. You’re less likely to defeat yourself as you undertake new challenges.
This is good news if you’re a music student. If you simply believe that you can learn an instrument, then learning is possible. It’s like opening a door. You’re able to open it, you just have to decide to do it. If you don’t believe you can learn, then you never open that door.
How do you switch to a growth mindset?
Strategy 1: Awareness
Simply knowing that these two mindsets exist helps you to nurture the growth mindset and let go of the fixed mindset. If you recognize fixed-mindset thinking, then you’re better able to step away from it.
Strategy 2: Replace negative self-talk
When you notice that you’re thinking, “I can’t do it,” replace that with “I can’t do it yet.”
Instead of saying, “I hate it when it sounds bad!”, say, “I wonder what’s happening here? How can I make up an exercise from this?”
Instead of saying “I have to show people that I know what I’m doing,” say, “I’m here to learn, so it’s alright if I make mistakes.”
It may be hard to immediately banish the fixed mindset from your mind. Try giving it a name and a persona, like “Billy Buzzkill” or “Dana Doubter”. And then learn to talk to this persona when they show up.
ME: OK! Time to practice. Let’s see, I think I wanted to work on Breton Gavottes today. I want to play it in a few different keys.
DANA DOUBTER: Go ahead and try, but it probably won’t make a difference.
ME: Well, let’s just see what happens…
Strategy 3: Ask questions
When feeling doubt, frustration or low self-worth ask:
- “How can I practice this differently?”
- “What’s the perfect level of challenge for me right now?”
- “I wonder how much this will improve if I practice it every day for two weeks?”
- “Is this absolutely true? Or is there another way to look at it?”
Learn more: Ask Questions As You Practice
Why would someone choose a fixed mindset?
People don’t consciously choose to have a fixed mindset. One way or another they are taught it.
Parents, teachers and society put us into that mindset. If we’re praised for being smart, then we feel the need to protect that and fall into a fixed mindset.
We also fall into a fixed mindset when we are harmed. A fixed-mindset is a defense mechanism. The problem is that we tend to over-use it.
I just read Mindset by Carol Dweck and it blew my mind. I’ve always thought of myself as a lifelong learner (growth mindset). I now realize that for most of my life I’ve had a fixed mindset.
Now as I go about my day, I can see all the ways in which I have a fixed mindset. For example, we’re renovating a house. There’s a lot of decisions to make, which means a lot to learn and think about. I totally resist this. “I don’t want to learn this! I want to get back to making music and lessons for my students!”
But then I realize, “Wait, that’s the fixed mindset. What can I learn about this? Maybe I’ll meet some cool people along the way. Maybe I can become interested in this somehow.”
Something magical might happen: that thing you resisted might just become fun. When you’re learning double stops, it takes a while for them to sound good. It’s frustrating. But with a growth mindset, you can start to conduct experiments. As you fiddle with the problem, it becomes interesting.
You have a choice
Understanding these two mindsets has a huge influence on every part of your life: education, sports, relationships, career and parenting.
The main thing to remember: you always have a choice between a fixed and a growth mindset. What mindset do you have right now?
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- How To Build Your Fiddle Skills
- Ask Questions As You Practice
- Music is a fun way to upgrade your mind