Progress, Not Perfection

“Practice Makes Perfect!”

That is a phrase I heard many times in my past. That is a phrase I lived by when pursuing my A.R.C.T diploma for RCM. It’s a phrase I threw out at my students to encourage them to aim for higher and better.

Now, I have a different opinion on it.

While I still believe practice is integral to improving, I don’t believe “perfect” should be the goal of music lessons. When I was younger, this idea of perfectionism haunted me through performances, exams, and competitions. Nothing ever felt good enough.  As hours of practice piled on, I improved my technical skills drastically, but lost the reward of enjoying playing the piano.

Most people understand and believe that nothing is perfect, so aiming for perfection is futile. However, the problem is deeper than this. Most people who aim for “perfect” also understand this general concept. What they are really aiming for is being the best they can be at every moment.  While this type of intentional living can win awards and dazzle audiences, it can also leave an empty hole after each perfection. What comes after perfect? How can you ever be better than perfect? At what price does someone pay to internally compete with thousands in their own head? With music, the journey to perfection never ends.

Progress, Not Perfection

What those musicians, and myself, are really looking for, is progress. We want to continually grow and develop. We want to feel like our actions (practice) are translating into tangible results.  Instead of setting perfect as a goal , which can be exhausting to chase, we can set progress as a goal. Instead of seeking a standardized result, we can chase after we want for our own growth.

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