Last week we had a great visit with Tim Hagen, right now completing his DMA at UT. He gave a terrific mini-recital and class on what he calls "Scientific Practicing." Most musicians know and appreciate that performing well is no accident - this requires serious time, effort, dedication, and a whole lot of heart and investment of self! This includes having a method to really objectively plan out strategies for improvement.
I think it's so important to continually grow and seek inspiration, whether this be from great art, listening to an inspiring piece of music, attending a masterclass for a different instrument than your specialization (yes!), doodling with color pens, or (GASP!) read a thought-provoking book. One thing I love doing is collecting quotes - even from teabag tags or fortune cookies - and also good and inspiring passages from books. It's important to gather ideas from the outside to promote deeper and more meaningful interior growth. As an undergraduate I kept a notebook of such ideas which I could turn to when I needed a fresh perspective or a "practicing pick-me-up."
One of the books Tim mentioned was exactly that, and I'm so happy to rediscover Carol Dweck's amazing book, Mindset. If you haven't heard of this book, make sure you check out her terrific website! Her message is clear, concise, and really gets to the core of understanding how to best help ourselves learn faster and smarter. There's a ton of inspiring material here...start with taking this short test here to determine which mindset (fixed or growth) you actually have. Then read this page to use that information so you can reach your potential by discovering the four simple steps to change your mindset.
Speaking of change, here's another great book to check out, with a pretty hip website, too: Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath. I admit that two books on making changes may be a bit too intense for this point in the semester, but you might find a useful passage or two to at least take a screen shot to save for a rainy day review...and then dive into the book later after finals! Happy reading and especially - music making!