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5 Ways to Develop a Musician’s Growth Mindset - Part 2

5 Ways to Develop a Musician’s Growth Mindset Part 2

Katie Hone Wiltgen, Chief Education Officer

March 5, 2024

Fixed Mindset
Growth Mindset

As we learned in our last post, musicians with a Growth Mindset are motivated to learn and happy to embrace challenges. They understand that their effort makes all the difference, and they persist despite setbacks or frustrations.

So how can you develop a Growth Mindset and move your musicianship forward?  Read on for 5 tips from Forte!

1:  Concentrate on effort, not talent or intelligence

Have you ever heard “You’re so talented!” or “She is so smart!” This type of praise is common, but it’s not actually very helpful.  In fact, it may actually have a negative impact on motivation and achievement.

If we think that we’re successful because we’re just naturally talented or innately intelligent, then we start to believe that our effort has nothing to do with our success. We wrongly believe that our success can be attributed to a fixed and unchangeable quality of ourselves and that we have to uphold the illusion of success and perfection at all costs.

On the other hand, if we recognize that it’s our effort that leads to our success, we willingly tackle challenging tasks. We understand that the process of learning and making progress is largely in our own hands, and that we have the ability to move ourselves forward by seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and learning from our mistakes and setbacks.

2:  Focus on the process, not just the product

In music, the learning process matters just as much as the performance product, perhaps even more! The learning, the trying, the failing, the regrowth… that’s even more important than the success that comes after the practice.

Never place too much emphasis on the results. Practicing a Growth Mindset means focusing on the learning process more than the outcomes. When you struggle, work toward finding a more effective learning strategy. Ask questions, seek out experts, and use your struggle and eventual progress to motivate you onward.

Musicians often have a tendency to be always looking ahead to the next performance, the next audition, the next competition… and sometimes we think that’s what really matters.

But in reality, the rehearsal, the lessons, the practice time… Those things are probably even more important in the long run.

3:  Celebrate mistakes

Mistakes are proof that we are growing. 

Allow yourself to fail… Yes, really. Fail. As uncomfortable as that may be, it’s essential that you try and fail again and again, eventually seeing progress and growth in the process. Strive to view every failure as a stepping stone on the path to success.

In music, mistakes are scary, particularly when they happen in a public performance. But remember that even high-end performers made mistakes when they were first learning, and they still make mistakes today when they attempt new things.

Use your mistakes to inform your next steps, providing feedback for what to practice more, what to concentrate on, and what to do differently as you move forward. A Growth Mindset will turn failures into opportunities.

4:  Be eager to learn and adapt

When studying music, it can be easy to become bogged down by just how much there is to accomplish. The more you learn, the more you discover there is to learn!

Use your Growth Mindset to marvel at how much you don’t know and to embrace all opportunities for learning, advancement, and progress. Cultivating a love of learning will go far as you move through musical study!

Dedicate regular time in your schedule to practice, and commit to practicing consistently. Savor the practice experience, making yourself eager to come back for more.

5:  Embrace the power of YET

The word “yet” may be the most powerful word in your musician’s toolkit.

With a Growth Mindset, “I can’t” becomes “I will,” and it’s all due to the power of “yet.”

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

“I can’t play this.”

“I can’t play this yet, but I will after I’ve worked on it.”

“I’m not very good at cello.”

“I haven’t yet put in the practice time required to feel good about this.”

“I’ll never be as good of a singer as her.”

“My teacher and I haven’t yet worked on that technique.”

With a Growth Mindset on your side and a strong Forte teacher on the other end of your screen, your musical success is all but ensured!