I have made incredible breakthroughs over the past 803 days of practice. The way that I practice now is significantly different from what it was when I started. This isn’t really a shocking revelation, as I imagine anyone that made a concerted effort to improve every single day over a thousand days would discover new ways to think about improving. But I have come to a different understanding of how we mentally approach the practice. Today’s topic is in regards to the myth of ‘consistency’. Consistency doesn’t exist- at least not in the way it is usually described. We need to change the way we talk about (and teach) the concept of consistency as it can be stifling to those that truly want to master their craft.
Consistency is in the eye of the beholder. Think about it- when you hear someone play and you think “wow, they are so consistent”, what you are saying is according to YOU, they sound as if they play everything at the same level (consistent). I would bet that ten times out of ten, if you asked the person playing what they thought about it, they would have a different opinion. I have experienced times where someone thought my playing was really consistent, and what I heard was quite different- totally not consistent at all. Similarly, I have heard great players and thought they were so consistent, but I bet they would disagree. It is all a matter of perspective.
Perception is a funny thing. We commonly base our views on what we perceive, but perception comes with a variable threshold for all of us. There are things beyond our realm of perception- nuance we may not catch. It exists in any of our modes of sensory perception. For example, I imagine that if I sat down with a connoisseur of fine wines and compared two glasses of red wine, they would taste all sorts of differences that I cannot perceive- I’d barely be able to tell the difference between a Merlot and Shiraz while a true expert would probably notice fine details well beyond my realm of perception. We seem to understand and embrace this concept when it comes to perception, but why do we pretend consistency isn’t related to this? If we believe consistency is according to perception, then we have to admit that consistency doesn’t really exist other than a way to describe our inability to perceive.
If consistency doesn’t really exist, then why do we approach practicing as if it does? Why is our goal to practice ‘consistently’- this is where I disagree with a majority of conventional pedagogy. Consistency implies a fixed level of play, and I think if we are going to get serious about mastering something, we need to shift the focus away from the myth of consistency and toward a concept of an evolving trajectory of constant improvement (in both our perception as well as playing). Every day we should take aim at either getting slightly better at something, or becoming more aware of how/why what we do isn’t consistent (again, back to ‘in control’ and ‘well-informed’ I have written about in previous articles).
I wonder what this means for the phrase ‘habits’... Let's deal with that next time.