Mindful learning (and the day my wife nearly failed her driving test)

Mindful Learning (and the Day My Wife Nearly Failed Her Driving Test)

Whether we are learning how to hold a tennis racket and hit a topspin forehand, or how to position and shape our hands when playing the piano, we have a tendency to approach new skills in a very cut-and-dried way. As if there is only one “correct” way to perform the skill. We also tend to operate under the assumption that the path to expert performance requires practicing this skill over and over in exactly the same way until it is automatic and can be executed without any conscious thought.…


Have difficulty visualizing? Here's a

A Research-Based “Hack” That Could Improve Your Mental Practice (and Build Confidence Too)

Fish and chips may be one of the greasiest, artery-cloggingest meals ever devised, but one day, my wife and I decided to try preparing this at home. We got some tilapia, made up a batter, and a couple hours later, we had our homemade fish and chips. Blueberries were in season, so we made a cobbler for dessert too. The meal was actually a little disappointing, but I still remember it very vividly. I can picture the texture of the strips of fish, and the little dollop of tartar sauce on the side.…


Pre-Performance Routines: How Consistent Do They Need to Be?

Pre-Performance Routines: How Consistent Do They Need to Be?

An Olympic gold medal. Dozens of tournament titles. And 14 Grand Slam titles (one of only two male players in history to have won at least two Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces). With such a rare track record of success, Rafael Nadal is regarded by many to be one of the all-time tennis greats. But Nadal is also considered to be one of the more eccentric players on the tour, with a whole collection of rituals and quirks that have made him the object of some good-natured teasing at…


Gaze Control: A Way to Keep Anxiety From Spiraling Out of Control at Auditions

Gaze Control: A Way to Keep Anxiety From Spiraling Out of Control at Auditions

It’s been decades since that day I stood in front of a panel of faculty at Curtis for my college audition, but I still remember it as one of the most anxiety-provoking moments of my life. I had never met any of the musicians who sat and looked at me from behind the table. I knew them only by name and reputation - and even then, wasn’t sure who was who (needless to say, this was before Google and Facebook had been invented). I’m sure they were all perfectly congenial and friendly people, and…


Why Visualization Ought to Include More than What We See with Our Eyes

Why Visualization Ought to Include More than What We See with Our Eyes

We often hear about athletes’ use of mental imagery techniques in preparation for competition (like here). And on the surface, mental practice does seem like a pretty straightforward concept. But sometimes it’s not really clear what “mental practice” ought to look like. Does “imagery” suggest that we should focus all of our attention on just the images that represent what we will see when actually playing and performing? Or does it work better for us to focus more on the physical sensations and…