Are you in an all-or-nothing trap?


You know the feeling.


Either you're completely crushing it, or you're a total failure. You make one mistake, and the recital is ruined. If you can’t practice for the ideal time, you may as well not practice at all. 


There’s no middle ground, no room for mistakes or learning opportunities. 


  • Practice 3 hours ↔ Don’t practice at all 
  • Perfect Performance  ↔ Terrible Performance 
  • Had a great lesson  ↔ Made a few mistakes, it was awful 
  • My articulation is good  ↔ My articulation is bad 




Obviously this thinking is NOT based on facts and makes you see your world much much more negatively than is ever going to be helpful. The research tells us that thinking in binaries has been associated with symptoms of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. It’s not hard to imagine why… 


You miss opportunities to learn, improve, and observe the complexities of doing, well, anything in this world. It tends to lead you to catastrophize small mistakes, and quite honestly, it can really suck the joy out of life! 


Yes, we are all musicians here, many of us “high achievers” and striving for excellence/pushing yourself to be the best is admirable. 


This isn’t about ignoring the negative side of things - what you need to improve, or what responsibilities you need to pony up to. 


It’s about acknowledging the gray area. 


  • You’re not good or bad at articulation. You’re good at some elements, you are bad at some elements. Embrace the full reality, and then determine what next step will lead to improvement.
  • There’s no perfect performance and rarely a total disaster of a performance. What went well, what went okay, where’s the room for improvement next time? 
  • And sheesh, the whole “I had a terrible lesson” thing! One mistake doesn’t transform a great, productive lesson into a terrible one. Don't focus on the one moment you faltered - focus on what went well, too.
  •  We’ve talked about this before and will until we’re blue in the face… practicing 3 hours is fine but if you can’t do 3, 20 minutes makes a difference, too. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. 


The assumptions and thoughts that you have give you what you see. 


If you only focus on the black and white, that’s what you’ll see. Perfection or failure. And neither will ever be completely true. 


Let’s shift that this week, shall we? 


Embrace the gray. 

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