It’s been months since I had my latest piano lesson. The lockdown has stopped my lessons completely and I didn’t do any online lessons since it’s hard to do it via video. And frankly speaking, I didn’t practice as much. The children being home and home-schooling for two months had taken my time, energy, and sanity.
Two days ago I finally had my lesson again at home. Being tired repeating two Beethovens killed my mood, and the discrepancy of my piano sounds didn’t help at all. I waited non eagerly for my teacher to come. I’m a cheap woman, so the thought of spending 20 euro without learning effectively always brings me stomach pain.
Finally she came, and I had 30 minutes of frustration trying to fix my hands and fingers positions, trying to understand how to hit the notes correctly. Even a simple doremi wasn’t simple anymore because she kept correcting me.
“All you have to do is practice, practice, and practices”, told my teacher. Huhuhu… yes I know. But how to practice when I have to cook and wash dishes? (Excuse, excuse, excuse) I bet my teacher was frustrated too in teaching me.
This accident reminds me of my children.
“What is 6 + 7?”
“NO! Try again!”
“I don’t know, Mama.”
“You just have to practice, practice, practice! What’s so difficult about this? If you’ve listened to me and did your math exercises diligently you would be able to answer this easily!”
Yes, a lot of skills in this world are matters of practice. We can have the talent of a maestro but without practice it leads us nowhere.
Becoming an expert in something new, whatever the subject, means building small chunks of knowledge using day-by-day practice and repetition. Gradually, these small chunks can then be knit together into mastery. It can seem natural to do this when learning a physical skill, say, how to play the guitar. After all, missing even one day of guitar practice can lead to fumble fingers the next day. It may be less obvious that the same practice and repetition applies to learning in math and science. In these more cerebral “sports,” you also need to practice and repeat little mental chunks. For example, after first working through a difficult homework or example problem, you can practice working the problem again from scratch without checking the solution for clues. The next day, you try this “from scratch” practice again, perhaps several times. If the problem is a tough one, you might practice it repeatedly over a number of days. You’ll be surprised that what on the first day seemed completely impossible seems easy after a week’s practice. “Deliberate practice” of the tougher aspects of the material allows you to develop expertise much more quickly.
Ericsson & Pool in Peak, Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
In order to master something we need to do what is called ‘deliberate practice’. Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. It requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.
Deliberate practice is an action you plan and program, and deliberately do. It’s not something coincident, but something you create to happen, because you know you have to do the practice to be better in something.
My piano teacher asked me to go back to Hanon and practice the 4th first exercises until I can master the fingers’ positions correctly. I have done these exercises many years before when I learned piano by myself. But when someone professional sees my technique and finds it lacking, it means whether I like it or not I have to repeat them again, until I get it right.
This got me thinking about my life – and all the ‘practices and exercises’ God has let me to go through in my life.
When I was young, I had this illusion that I was a very patient woman (HAH!). I sincerely thought I was gentle, loved children, and dromed to be a mom, a very good mom. I guess I was completely delusional.
On the day my son was born, he was a little dynamite who was very angry and frustrated all the time. All the beautiful imagination of being a first time mother (or I would now say a lack of information instead imagination) was shattered within hours. My breast milk wasn’t as much, I had difficult labour and ended up with an emergency c-section, and a panic-angered-little boy who never stopped throwing a tantrum until just a few years ago.
I realized that I wasn’t a patient woman after all, all the sleeping dragons inside of me (I guess they are more than 20!) woke up and came to surface, making me a very snappy and hot-tempered mom.
I prayed asking God to give me patience and calmness, and for my children more self control so they don’t annoy me as much. But instead my children stayed as they are, improving but not as fast as I expect, and still giving me until this very day reasons to snap.
Dwelling on this practice topic makes me realize that not only I need to do deliberate practice to improve my piano skill (or cooking, cleaning or any other skill), but in a way, God has let me go through a set of deliberate practice He programmes for the better me!
I want to be patient, He gives me a practice set: my two loud children. Every single day these two children give me a chance to exercise my patience. When they were not directly obeying me, their actions force me to think of what effective way I can use instead of screaming, or what kind of reasons and needs they might have to make them ignoring my commands.
Every time my daughter whined or complained, I was given a chance to practice my patience, as well to see this as a chance to be there comforting her when she doesn’t feel well, or correcting her when she needed it. Everytime my son put his fingers in his mouth – something I corrected like 200 times per day, or when he’s not fast enough following my instruction when he practiced piano, I was given a chance to practice my patience, as well as building my faith that one day he would get past this bad habit. Every time I saw the wet kitchen counter and realized my husband didn’t wipe it dry after he finished washing the dishes, I was given a chance to practice my patience, as well as the gratefulness that he actually helped out at home although not to my standards.
Everytime my children asked my attention, to play with them or see what they were watching when I was busy doing my own thing, I was given a chance to practice my patience, as well the reminders that my children love me and want me to be in their worlds.
God let many things happen in our lives as a set of deliberate practice. He deliberately let us go through many things because He wants us to be better, in our patience, in our faith, in our way of thinking, in many things.
When we feel suffocated to experience the same thing again and again, remember, as a pianist needs hours of practice and repeats the same parts hundreds times until he masters it, or a football player needs to go through a drill of shooting practice thousand times, our characters and virtue must go through hundreds of exercises as well until we got better and meet the plan God has prepared for us.
Practice makes perfect. Deliberate practice makes perfect. Do your practice deliberately and welcome every practice from Above with open hearts, and remember we have a goal: to be better!