Does criticism wash over you like water off a duck’s back? Or does it keep you up all night? How well do you handle failure? Most of us face these challenges to our resilience daily. What if there was something that focused on training mental toughness as precisely and effectively as a bicep curl? Teaching the kind of grit that will get you through the tough moments in life is one of the most valuable takeaways of music education, and here is how it works.
How Music Lessons Teach Resilience
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
– Albert Einstein
A music lesson provides the student with new material to read and new techniques to master. New challenges. It also provides coaching when the student struggles to understand the music or can’t execute the new technique – that’s where resilience comes in. We naturally feel all kinds of negative emotions when we struggle with something new: inadequacy, frustration, self-doubt, embarrassment, the list goes on. Psychologically, the tendency is then for us to develop negative beliefs about ourselves through these negative emotions. Music lessons break this cycle. Music teachers remind us to separate the emotions from defining our personality and keep trying.
Your music teacher shows you that failure is a learning opportunity. They give you the tools to overcome. It takes multiple attempts to master any new element of music, and this trains the mind to accept failure as nothing more than a part of the process. As you overcome each hurdle, the emotional impact of each new challenge becomes less noticeable, and the focus turns to your growth. You become accustomed to overcoming. You expect to win. The more resilience you develop, the more wins you get under your belt and the more confident you become.
Some of the best skills you’ll learn have nothing to do with music.
Resilience in Performance
Recitals, auditions, and other performances come with their own set of challenges. Here is another case where music education gives you the edge in a wide variety of situations. Music education prepares you for putting yourself out there, making yourself visible and vulnerable to criticism. These sorts of experiences at a young age are invaluable to us as adults whenever the occasion calls for us to stand in front of others. Anxiety and self-doubt stop many of us from reaching a higher potential, and the solution is building that mental toughness that allows us to put these fears into perspective and separate them from the task at hand.
The challenges, for many of us, don’t stop when the last note rings out. Even being approached by family and friends after a recital can be tense as you come to terms with your worries about your performance. Praise itself can be hard for a perfectionist. However, the more opportunities we have to prepare a performance and become accustomed to being in front of people, the more we can again begin to expect to do well and gain confidence with each passing performance. We then bring that internalized confidence to every aspect of our life.
Predictor of Success
“it’s resilience, not IQ, that is the best predictor of success.”
– University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth
Social newsfeeds and the modern climate of quick clips and soundbytes are robbing us of our attention span and offering constant instant gratification. However, we also understand the mind better than ever before. Music education uses the physical and intellectual challenges of learning an instrument and the rewards of playing to give us self-reliance, initiative, confidence, and resilience.
“Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other in the integration of the human being because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated truly graceful.” – Plato