Are you wasting energy on efforts that actually make it more difficult to attain your goals? Are you trying too hard and allowing a lack of focus and intention to actually work *against* yourself?
We can get the idea that if our efforts are not getting us the results that we want or if we want to progress faster that we just need to push harder. The problem is that to operate at higher levels we usually need to be able to attain greater results with the same amount- if not less- effort. When progressing in life improving our skills and stepping up our game is often more like changing gears than just running the motor faster. The problem with more effort is that we have limits to different levels of operation. For example: It wouldn’t make sense to try to move progressively faster crawling so we learn to walk. When walking isn’t fast enough we learn to run. In order to operate in different states of forward progress we must also learn to optimize our efforts to make that progress possible and practical.
So we can unintentionally let the *tension* caused by over-exertion and unfocused, inefficient efforts to short-circuit our *intention* to attain a goal. So how can we reduce tension and focus on intention?
The first two things that come to mind is intellect and efficiency. It helps to grow our intellect through a daily habit of study and reflection. Learning how to do things better from others that have come before us and seeking insight from people that are smarter and/or more experienced than us can help to elevate our awareness of what is possible in the world and how things are done. Reflecting on our past efforts and how effectively we worked to attain our goals can also help us to be smarter and more effective in our future efforts.
These intellectual considerations help us to then focus on being *efficient* in our efforts. As a musician making technical progress can be time-consuming and somewhat elusive. People often either give up on making the efforts to improve out of frustration or push too hard and end up hurting themselves in the pursuit of progress. In order to successfully progress we need to get comfortable with each level that we attain as a basis to build upon to then move on to the next level.
Having an *intellectual* clarity about what we’re trying to attain is essential. If we can’t conceive in our minds what it is we’re trying to accomplish it is unlikely that it will manifest itself in our playing. Taking the time and making the effort to conceive our ideas in our heads *first* (or “hearing” what we’re going to play before we play it) will greatly enhance one’s efforts to make musical and technical progress. As a musician this is one way that *listening* to music also helps us to improve because the sounds that we are exposed to then inform the kind of ideas that we can conceive and then ultimately produce.
Tension occurs when we are using additional unnecessary effort to accomplish a goal that actually prevents us from being able to succeed and wastes energy as well as diminishing our actual intent. When pushing our bodies to their limits our first inclination is often to push and create tension by using unnecessary muscles to try to power through a technical issue. The problem is that tension often slows down our efforts by preventing the correct body movements to occur because opposing and/or surrounding muscle groups are preventing them from operating correctly.
In order to progress we need to focus on our *intention* and approach it gradually from a point of clarity and understanding. To make consistent, effective and permanent progress we need to learn to push our boundaries in a *thoughtful* and *methodical* way so as to ultimately break through barriers and “change gears” as opposed to trying to power through them. When you start to feel tension just step back, take a breath and focus on your intention.