Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The Power of Good Practices
For me, reading my list of blogs each morning is better than reading the news.
The news is just chock full of sensational garbage aimed at exciting our passions, getting us riled up against one another and everyone else, all with the aim of making money. And it has made the most controversial of them very rich.
I found out a long time ago there are things I can change and things I can't change. I prefer to direct my energy to those I can change.
Reading my fellow bloggers each day, rather than sapping my creative energy, inspires all kinds of new ideas and fires me up for doing something positive.
Yesterday, at Joanne's Whole Latte Life, she asked a question which made me think deeper about something I'd already been contemplating--the value of practice.
Practice is an overused word in many ways, and to tell you the truth, I'd come to think of it as just doing something a lot rather than doing it well. But for those of you who followed my blog this last year and a half, you may remember that I started piano lessons last February, and these piano lessons have taught me about:
1. The power of practice
2. The necessity for quality practices to form good habits.
A bad practice forms a bad habit and, as they say, bad habits are hard to break!
My piano teacher told me from the start, when I was more interested in playing a whole song than concentrating on doing small parts right, that correcting a bad habit in piano will take FOUR times longer than learning it from scratch. Four times!!
To put her theory into real time, it means that when I get to a series of measures that I've played wrong, I have to play them and play and play them, ad nauseum, until I can play them perfectly four times. (That's the corrective measure she's taught me). Sounds easy? It's not.
So, I've come to look at practice with a whole new respect. How do I sit on my horse? How do I lead them around? What habits have I taught them?
I read in a book (can't remember which one) a long time ago that there was a family who raised a colt, and when the colt was young, the father taught him to stand with his front hooves on the father's chest. As the horse grew, it turned into what could be a deadly habit and they had to take the horse in for corrective training. With horses, however, habits taught when they're young are sometimes impossible to change--and you eventually see these horses at the auctions through no fault of their own except having practiced bad things from their human teachers.
Last year I started to realize something about myself, I knew how to do a lot of things, but I did a lot of things moderately well. I had focused on quantity rather than quality. That's what made me return to piano. I thought, I want to do at least one thing pretty darn good before I die. It's worth the effort to at least try--then they can say of me,--She wasn't the best, but boy did she put in the effort to learn!
Funny thing though, as I concentrate on piano, guess what happens? The lessons I learn in piano leak into everything else. All of a sudden I see other areas of my life where I have shoddy practices--eating habits, fitness, writing, riding, ....and it could go on and on.
I wasn't born a perfectionist--in fact, I'm the anti-perfectionist--and I wouldn't say that's my aspiration--but there is something powerful to be said about developing good habits through the practice of doing things correctly, or at least as well as we know to do them.
(And thank goodness for teachers, mentors, friends, fellow-bloggers, who help us see these things.)
It's been about seven months since I started piano lessons, and I'm starting to really see the change in my playing. I had worried that, at my age, I was like some of those horses who you seemingly can't fix, and it was too late for me to change bad habits and learn good ones. Apparently, it's not--even my 42 year old brain is capable of developing new pathways with enough repetition!
Is there something you're practicing? Is there something your horse is practicing? I'm wishing you well today as you work toward your goals!