Fiddling With A Growth Mindset

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:

  1. Practice Challenge
  2. Physical Challenge
  3. 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?

Are you ready to begin your fiddle journey? Sign up for a free two-week trial and get full access to all courses and group lessons. Plus, I’ll send you some free lessons tailored to your current skill level.

Click here to become a FiddleHed!

Further learning

How To Practice Fiddling Course >>


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6 responses to “Fiddling With A Growth Mindset

  1. I am ready to start paying the $39 per month to get access to FiddleHed lessons. I’d like to select the ones I think I need, and go at my own pace. i am 93 years old and used to play the violin. I can’t see how to do that form the information presented as my trial subscription runs out. It wants me to set up goals, records of accomplishments, and “I-don’t-know-what-else.”

    Please let me know how I can do it in this way, if that is possible. I like your method of breaking the elements of violin playing into small pieces that can be practiced separately.

    Norman Crook

    1. Hope you received a reply and are giving this a go Mr Crook! My understanding is you can indeed roam across the site and take your own approach with the direction if that suits you better. Wish you every good luck in returning to the violin, hope this endeavour brings you much pleasure.

  2. Jason, you have ‘hit the nail on the head’ for me here. I say ‘this is too hard’ far too many times. I am going to start talking to Doubting Delilah when she appears. Thank you for this very helpful post and good luck with your renovations and I do hope you find joy in them.