Positive Practice – Focus on what you do want rather than what you don’t!

When we’re setting out on our practice for the day, it’s pretty important to set out what it is you want to achieve in that particular session – gotta have a plan!

Alongside this, it’s also extremely important to set out those goals or thoughts in positive terms rather than negatives. That is to say, be explicit and clear and state exactly what it is you do want rather what you don’t.

It may seem like such a little thing, but changing up your language forces the brain, including our all important subconscious brain, to reframe a situation and approach it differently. And different approaches than you’d previously applied will, in most likelihood, equal different outcomes than you’d previously achieved.

Deutsch: Phrenologie
This noggin of ours has a lot to answer for! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Say what?

In choosing the words and language for your playing goals, there’s one crucial piece of information to remember – your mind cannot, or struggles at least, to process negative statements.

Let me give you an example….ready?

I don’t want you to think of a pink elephant. Do not think of a pink elephant.

Right, got that?

Did a pink elephant pop into your minds eye in spite of me telling you not to think about it?

Case in point. Your brain tends to filter out the “don’t” or doesn’t recognise it and brings up a lovely image of a pink pachyderm instead. Hah hah!

So what? How does that apply to me as a guitarist?

Be careful to pick words, phrases or sentences about your playing that focus on what it is you DO want to occur and not what you DON’T want to occur.

Lets pick an example relevant to your practice. In figuring put, working out or working on a tricky element or challenging part of a piece, if you chose to use the words “I find this bit quite difficult. I don’t want it to sound so disjointed” the brain, the unconscious mind, tends to pick up on the “quite difficult” and “disjointed” bits and thereby works to create a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy – you’ll probably end up with something sounding exactly that way!


The subconscious mind is always working to achieve goals, whether you realise it or not. So give it a goal that you really want into work towards!

By reframing the above sentence and using something along the lines of “I find this bit not so easy. I’d like it to sound more flowing and legato“, instead, the subconscious mind then tends to pick up on the “so easy” and flowing and legato“. The subconscious mind then has its own micro goal set to create a situation that is “so easy, flowing and legato” and will work alongside your conscious brain to achieve that outcome.

Hmmmm. Interesting huh? Give it a whirl – it might just work….


8 thoughts on “Positive Practice – Focus on what you do want rather than what you don’t!

  1. this is soo true, i always have to set a plan or goal before i can ever achieve anything, that was a great post, i bet it aplys to everyone who plays the guitar, i think people will love it!

    1. Hi Laura,

      thanks for reading the blog and I’m so glad you enjoyed that particular post.

      Yes, The Inner Game of Music is fantastic book, and has been a part of my library for a number of years 😉
      Another fantastic book by the same author, Barry Green, is “The Mastery of Music. The Keys To Musical Excellence”. And for something a bit different, but in a similar vein check out “The Music Lesson” by Victor L Wooton.

      Thanks again for reading and enjoy your practice!


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