I’m postponing the last of the 5 steps to everyday happiness for one week, because I have a really important true story to tell. It’s an important story because it shows so clearly how the rules we make for ourselves can completely change the way we act.
My son is going to play his cello in a concert at school this week. Because he learns outside of the school environment, one of the school music teachers wanted to hear him play so that they could place him at an appropriate point in the programme. So last Friday my son took his cello in to school.
The cello was placed in a safe spot in an office, but I placed his music bag on his coat peg. Clearly he didn’t notice me do it, because later, when the music teacher came to collect him, he didn’t pick up his music. He just went to the office, got his cello, and went off to play.
After setting up, he realised that he didn’t have his music with him.
So what did he do?
What would you do if you realised you didn’t have your music, and you were auditioning for a concert? Would you panic? Would it affect your performance?
What my son didn’t do.
He didn’t panic. He didn’t worry.
What my son did.
Telling me the story later, my son said that he thought, “Oh well, I’ll just have to play my pieces from memory.”
So he did. Really well, according to the teacher.
My son doesn’t know that playing for strangers is meant to be scary. He doesn’t know that playing pieces from memory is meant to be hard. So he did both things unquestioningly and without a jot of worry. In fact, when I suggested to him later that some grown-ups might find that situation hard, he laughed at me.
It’s a question of rules. My son hasn’t learned or internalized any rules that say that playing for other people, or playing from memory, is anything to be afraid of. This means that he hasn’t put up any barriers from playing as well as he can.
So why should we?
Change your rules, change your world
FM Alexander said that “a changed point of view is the royal road to reformation.”* If you change the rules and assumptions that you operate under, then you effectively change the way you view and interact with the world.
Piano teacher and blogger Elissa Milne gave a great example of this in her most recent post. By encouraging her student to stop reading the note names he had placed over every note in his music, and instead to think about the music in terms of shapes, she was able to change his playing from fumbling to near effortless in minutes.
If a piano student can experience that sort of improvement from a change of rule, what sort of improvement do you think you could achieve?
* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.44.
Image by J Frasse, FreeDigitalPhotos.net