Hate Making Mistakes? Try This!

Every now and then, I encounter a student who is extremely sensitive to making mistakes. No matter how much I emphasize that mistakes are part of the learning journey, that they’re our friends revealing our errors, and that they’re evidence of our efforts, some students still become deeply upset. This reaction not only diminishes their enjoyment of learning the guitar but also stunts their progress and efforts.

In the past, I’ve tried to minimize mistakes by simplifying tasks for students. This approach works to some extent, but I believe it also prevents students from fully reaching their potential due to a lack of challenge.

Recently, during a lesson with a student particularly sensitive to making mistakes, I noticed that they were getting frustrated again. Knowing that they were capable of playing the piece with a bit more effort, I wanted to encourage them to keep trying. So, I shifted the focus from how well they were playing the riff they were learning, to the Time Spent practicing it.

I set a five-minute timer on my phone and instructed the student to practice the riff for that duration. Once the five minutes were up, they could stop. Interestingly, this approach transformed their mindset. They became less concerned about mistakes, likely because their goal shifted from playing the riff perfectly to dedicating a full five minutes to practice.

The technique is straightforward:

  1. Select what you want to work on.
  2. Set a time limit for your practice.
  3. Focus solely on practicing for the set duration.
  4. Once the time is up, stop and acknowledge your effort.
  5. Repeat in the next practice session.

That’s it!

So far, this technique has proven really effective with a number of my students. They are spending more time practicing specific elements than usual and are showing improvement and greater enjoyment in their practice.

If you too struggle with mistakes, try focussing on the time practicing instead.