There is always a feeling you get when you accomplish something. This feeling can be subtle or overwhelmingly awesome. Subtle when it applies to doing dishes, you're glad they're done and you don't have to worry about it anymore... Until tomorrow. The feeling becomes awesome when it's something you actually care about like a project car you've been messing with for years and you first start it and take it for a drive without problems surfacing. There are also the average feelings of victory as well. When you beat a video game or win a card game. Not really important stuff, but it's still makes you feel good. These feelings are circumstantial and temporal. They begin to fade immediately after the moment has passed.
You've heard of people living in the glory years of high school football victories. This happens because they don't want the feeling to pass. The reality is it is long gone, but since they are afraid to let go they exhume the memory and try to breathe life back into it by talking about it all the time as if it happened this morning. Note the motivation is now fear. Fear of not living up to what had once been accomplished. This greatly paralyzes. It stops you from moving forward and being victorious again. You become a has-been. No one wants to be that. This happens to musicians a lot as well after a band has done something of value to the members and maybe breaks up. They might be tempted to worship that experience and think that was their 15 min. Of fame. Well, maybe it was 15min., but does that mean you just give up. I hope not. Many will give up, some people do so unknowingly. Dwelling on past victories can be intimidating and by esteeming that past experience you might feel a small sense of accomplishment again, but deep beneath that surface lurks what you're trying to cover up; FEAR!
You can put up a front with everyone else, but it's best to just be real. To do that you have to be real with yourself. If you have fear then just face it. It's not going anywhere until you do. You can run from it, but that makes you a coward. Yes, I'm calling you out. Are you a coward? Are you scared? Be honest with yourself. Everyone has fears, but only the brave admit them and face them. If you want to move forward in your guitar playing, your band, your life, or whatever you're trying to do then you have to deal with this internal obstacle.
Knowing the fear is there is the first step. Recognizing the cause is the next. This will give you a proper context of what's going on in your heart and head. Now we must bring what's going on inside to the outside. Admit to yourself out loud that fear. Confess it. You are guilty. OK, that's not hard to do, right? Well, it can be if you've buried it for a long time. I am proud of you if you've taken these steps.
The fear is still there, but now it's beginning to get scared of you! So, how do we assassinate this evil dictator of our emotions? We face it. Let's break this down and come up with a plan first. If the fear has been there a long time it isn't going to just go away.
Facing The Fear
You will be the best conspirator because you know what you're afraid of, where it come from, and when it started. If you don't know these details then sit down and think through it thoroughly. Write it down. Then burn it. Dealing with the mind is the trickiest of things to master. It's not physical or visible. And it's inside your head. Part of what you will have to do is simple. If you're afraid of playing in front of people then you will have to just do it. But there is a right way to go about this. You might just get up and do it, but if you're not prepared then it will show in your performance. You will not play to your fullest potential, you will come off as nervous, and you might just plain suck because of it. This could backfire. Your experience could further prove to yourself that you are right to be afraid and then it will be even harder to dethrone that sucker. Once you've "proven" to yourself you are right, it gets imprinted deeper into your mind. You then become even harder to convince otherwise, whether it be by someone else or yourself.
Let us be brave, but smart as well. Think of this as an intelligent enemy. To prepare for battle soldiers need to train. Physically and mentally. Mostly mentally. Then a strategy must be created to deal with this. Training needs to take place daily. Start by recording yourself playing and make sure it's a video. Audio will work if that's all you have. Do this a lot. Be OK with the things you are insecure about. Refine them. This should prove to be the biggest help. You can do this when no one is home and don't give in to the temptation to delete it. I'd highly recommend saving it and looking back at the progress you will have made over time. Do this for one week and see the difference. Record, review, refine, repeat.
We're talking about facing the fear. It's indie of you. Inside your mind. This is why we record with video. You can see yourself for who you are. Learn to be OK with yourself. You don't have to love everything. I'm not trying to get you to be vain and self-absorbed. Just don't hate yourself. If you want to succeed or improve in whatever it is you're trying to accomplish then you need to come along side yourself and not fight with yourself. There are enough other things in life that we have to battle with. We don't need to add to the list.
When you have reached the stage of beginning to accept your lack of perfection in your skills it will "open a door" to get to the stage beyond that. You can't skip any steps. You have to go through the first door to get to the second. Even if you could skip stages you'd find you are not prepared for that level of progress yet. That brings us back to just going out and playing live without preparation. You will get discouraged when it becomes overwhelming. So, to get to the next stage, master the stage you're on. Start in front of the mirror where you are your only audience. If you are not a fan of yourself then you are not going to convince anyone else to be a fan.
Another point to consider is settling for mediocrity. You don't have to be the worlds best. Your goals and dreams are personal and that's a good thing. What I'm talking about is stopping before the finish line. That line is defined by you and your desires. Settling is when you see improvement and say to yourself, "I'm better than I used to be. This is good enough." Stop right there! Listen to what you just said and evaluate if that was your goal. If it was your goal, than I would like to encourage you to believe you can get to a higher goal.
Standing Upon The Obstacles Of Even Higher Mountains
What?! More obstacles?!.. It doesn't end after you've faced your fear.
That's not what you wanted to hear, right? Well, I'm not here to encourage mediocrity and make you feel good. Actually, I would like you to feel good, but not in a flattering way. I want you to feel good about the road ahead. The only way the grass is greener on the other side is if you are ready for the other side and can accept what else is on the other side. A simple analogy is that mountain tops are beautiful and we all want to be on one. To feel like we're at the top of the world. So, get ready to climb a mountain and not just endure it. Love it. It's hard, but it's healthy. The mountains should be just that. A mountain is beautiful and it's a new challenge to conquer. This kind of perspective is one of hope, not fear. You can't see anymore obstacles, just mountain tops. This perspective comes once you've gotten to the first mountain top. You feel the freedom of being up there and your vision is expanded, not limited by the view of being stuck at the bottom.
Can you see what I'm saying? Once you video tape yourself a few times and work on some small issues first you move forward up the great mountain of your ultimate goal. You're not at the top, but can see better from that elevation. Keep going. It's always easier to just go back down.
About The Author: Ryan Duke is a musician, songwriter, and guitar teacher in Dayton, OH. He plays avant-prog metal in Fortis Amor. Delivering a positive message to encourage fellow musicians and students. Visit his music site to download the exclusive new song for free. For more help to improve your guitar playing download my free e-book "5 Steps to Take Your Guitar Playing to the Next Level".