“Practice makes perfect and nobody’s perfect, so why practice?” Billie Joe Armstrong – American musician 1972

Does practice make perfect?  Unfortunately, the answer is, “NO!”  Practice makes permanent and only perfect practice makes perfect.  Oh dear, there appears to be a bit of a problem developing here, the pressure to be perfect in the first place.

Health warning!  Seeking to attain and hold perfection is positively damaging to your self confidence.  Being on the top of the pedestal all the time isn’t a healthy place to be and brings its own problems, one of which is the danger of comparing yourself to others all the time. In any case what is the fun in being perfect?  Perfection can be boring.

I have no wish to be a superhero.  Being an ordinary mortal hasn’t stopped me from attaining goals of excellence.  What does sabotage me, are the moments, when when I start comparing my achievements, with those of my peers.

When practising with our children, we need to free ourselves from the pressure of being perfect.  As well as being boring and constantly stressed, perfectionists have way too much to loose with each mistake.  It’s easier not to try, than to cope with the ever present risk of failure.

Instead of perfection, what about adopting the act of working towards excellence, as a more practical objective.  When you aim for excellence, you simply work towards the best, aiming high and acknowledging that there will be times when you don’t quite reach that peak.  Substituting excellence for perfection, doesn’t mean that you don’t have high standards and expectations.  It does mean that you can be easier on yourself and your child.  In doing this, you are more likely to succeed together, in your music teaching practice.

How can you help yourselves to develop excellence?  Think of an area in your practice that is really important to you.  Maybe you’d like to develop a more cooperative working relationship.  How will you know when you’ve got it?  Picture what it would be like to succeed.  What would you both be doing, or saying, or feeling?  Talk about it with your child and make notes of your ideas.  Writing it down in the present tense will make it feel more real for both of you.  It’s getting clear about what you want, that makes excellence easier to achieve.  Look at your Goal Picture often, to help with motivation.

Give yourselves a break.  Get your practising goals into proportion, by paying careful attention to what you have already achieved.  Sit down with your child and take some time to look back and enjoy your successes over the past year.  Take out a large blank piece of paper and write down every success that you can think of.  Acknowledge the little everyday successes, as well as the great achievements and especially precious moments of cooperation and hard work.  Just keep writing until the page is full and then give yourselves big pat on the back. Display your success page, where you can see it, at practice time. If either of you is feeling low, you only have take a quick look, to remind yourself of how much you are achieving.

So, does practice make perfect?  No way!  Nonetheless, when you put things in proportion, by writing down your Goal Picture and your Success Page, it will become easier to work towards your goal.  Aim for excellence and increased self esteem for both of you.  Practice acknowledging your child’s hard work and focus and you and your child will find that music teaching practice makes for excellence.

Find out more about how to work towards excellence in The 100 Day Practice Journal.

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