Many successful athletes explain that during high level competitions, they only focus on what they are doing, instead of what their competitors are doing or have done. Similarly, focus on your actions rather than the actions of others. Stop comparing yourself to other people! So we know what a flow state is and the requirements to induce a flow state, but what can we do to improve our ability to flow during performances?
As I mentioned before, many musicians tense up and overexert themselves while performing even after practicing countless hours a day. The pressure just crumbles them. A couple of mental exercises will help you out. Many of these ideas come from the world of athletics as the mindset of a high-performance musician is similar to that of a high-performance athlete. One of the requirements for inducing a flow state is perceiving your skills to be up to the task, which means having confidence in your abilities. Unfortunately, many musicians have a habit of not believing in themselves.
Psychologists describe thoughts as skiers going down a hill. The more often they go down the same path, the deeper the carving in the snow becomes. If you lack confidence in your abilities, you tend to second-guess yourself, which again leads to overthinking and self-doubt, which reactivates your prefrontal cortex.
The thing that prevents you from dropping into the flow state is the thing that gives you your sense of self. An effective way to overcome this problem is what psychologists call self-talk, or positive affirmations. The idea is simple: talk to yourself in your head and tell yourself that you are capable of anything.
Remember, you are what you think. Laugh at your mistakes and let them go, and then bring yourself back into the moment. There is, however, a fine line between confidence and delusion, so we need to maintain some objectivity about our abilities. This will be addressed in the section dealing with mindfulness meditation.
Before a performance, it helps to just sit down and visualize yourself performing. Your brain often has trouble distinguishing between daydream and reality.
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Ever had a dream that feels so real that you woke up feeling like you dropped into another dimension? See yourself in the flow state. Many writers use exercise to drop into a flow state. Low intensity exercise can clear our minds for long periods of time. Your brain gets quiet when you exercise because you become so absorbed by the activity.
Doing some light jogging or yoga is a great way to prepare yourself for a performance and reduce the pre-performance jitters. This is something that musicians, athletes, top CEOs, actors, and artists have been doing. Mindfulness cultivates a present moment awareness. Mindfulness teaches us to be clearly, and effortlessly, focusing on the present moment, one of the things that happens during the flow state.
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Mindfulness builds up that concentration, and eventually you are absorbed by even the most mundane tasks. Stay focused on the task at hand, and you will have more success dropping into the flow state. As you can see, if you practice having effortless but focused attention on something mundane like your breath, it becomes easier to have effortless focus on playing music.
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Just pay attention to how everything feels. As you practice meditation more and more, you will find yourself falling into the flow state every so often.
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The more often you fall into the flow state, the easier you can enter it again. Remember that mental pathways get deeper the more you repeat them.
get link Meditation also helps you view your abilities as a musician in a detached manner. You tend to stop attaching your self-worth to your playing, which allows you to objectively decide what you need to work on next. The dissolution of the ego allows us to view ourselves objectively. Stay in the present moment. At this point, the present moment is all that matters. Remain relaxed and focused.
Have you ever noticed when you make a mistake and you try to save the song by playing it with more effort, it suddenly feels uninspired, and at worst, you make more mistakes? Even the performers of the highest level experience stage fright. Even the greatest musicians have disastrous performances. What matters is not the obstacles we face, but how we respond to them, so pick yourself back up and get back on that horse.
For some practice tips and lessons that will help you with the technical aspects of playing music, check out Liberty Park Music! Elliot, Andrew J. New York: Guilford, , pp. Lowis, Michael J. Accessed 29 November Sudo, Philip Toshio. Zen Guitar. Accessed 4 December Werner, Kenny. Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician within. Start learning with our day free trial! Try our music courses! We teach a variety of instruments and styles, including classical and jazz guitar, piano, drums, and music theory.
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What do I need? Exercise your mind So we know what a flow state is and the requirements to induce a flow state, but what can we do to improve our ability to flow during performances? Self-talk and positive affirmations One of the requirements for inducing a flow state is perceiving your skills to be up to the task, which means having confidence in your abilities. A study performed on professional classical pianists found a significant relationship between the flow state of the pianist and his or her heart rate, blood pressure, and major facial muscles.
Imagine that you can play music feeling relaxed and focused instead of tense, over-concentrated, and overexerted, a common problem for many players and me in the past. Personally, I find playing along with a groovy rhythm section to induce the flow state much faster. Psychologists believe that three prerequisites must be fulfilled before a flow state occurs: clear goals, immediate feedback, and a balance between skill and challenge levels.
The first requirement is that one must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress, which gives the task direction and structure. This is why short-term achievable goals are important when you practice. You must set goals that anchor you to the present moment rather than long-term goals, which shifts your focus to the future.
The second requirement is that the task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps you navigate around any changing demands and allows you to adjust your performance to maintain the flow state. The last requirement is a good balance between your perceived skill level and the perceived skill required of the task at hand.
In other words, besides the mental aspect of playing music, the technical aspect is also important, and you must be confident in your ability to complete the task before you. This third requirement cannot be stressed enough, because the task MUST be at the right level, neither too difficult nor too easy. Fear is the ultimate enemy and the source of all ills in the world. Franklin D. Fear is the enemy of the creative and hinders the mind from being free to play and create.
You fear failing during a performance and taking a blow to your sense of self-worth, and therefore you pressure yourself to perform well. Unfortunately, fear feeds into pressure, and pressure feeds into fear. This is how people crumble. What about those performances with no pressure at all? How did you do then? I bet that you did a lot better and enjoyed yourself a lot more than when you felt pressured. There is no mortal danger to playing music. Oftentimes, the brain is unable to differentiate mortal danger from danger to the ego. The only dangers exist in your mind and ego.
You feel pressured and afraid because you want to impress your audience. Instead of focusing on impressing your audience, I ask that you focus on expressing the music.