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How to Replace the Mantra"No Pain, No Gain" with Effortless Effort

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

In the West, the cliché “no pain, no gain” still governs most of our strategies about how to practice and succeed with a new skill. Beginning students have a restless fixation on vague, linear based goals. And many assume it will require thousands of hours of practice to achieve desirable results in their skills.



Is there another way?


For some people, "Effortless Effort" may be the ideal alternative.


The Problem with Linear Focused Goals


The “no pain, no gain” mantra is widely accepted as a necessary evil if one wishes to achieve satisfying results learning to play the piano. Unfortunately, goals focused primarily on linear thinking can hinder creativity and innovation. it is true that linear goals can produce reasonable results.


However, the question is: "At what cost?"


When this mindset fixated on linear goals is applied rigidly on an activity like practicing the piano, it can disrupt mind and body balance. This intern limits musical expression and personal enjoyment.



Purposeful Piano Practice


Fortunately, the “no pain no gain” motto has been given more detailed exploration through books such as “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell proposes, among other things, that the concept of practicing 10,000 hours to achieve mastery is only part of the story. He goes on to suggest that talent, surprisingly, is not always the main ingredient for success; that purposeful practice is much more important and effective to achieve positive results.


When you consider the PianoZen Method, you have to rethink the relationship between the word success and playing the piano. Success with PianoZen is all about experience. And the goal of PianoZen is to take you deeper into an awareness of Self; to experience something that is personal and transformational in nature.


A better way to approach piano lessons is to consider using “effortless, effort” instead of no pain, no gain. There is a term used in Taoism called “wu-wei” which means "non-doing." Another way to think of this is “purposeful wandering”; action that is spontaneous, natural, and effortless. The PianoZen online lessons allow students to embrace purposeful wandering as they play and express themselves at the piano.


If you want to read more about “wu-wie” and Taoism, Ted Kardash has a wonderful five part series entitled Taoism – Ageless Wisdom for a Modern World.


How to Use Effortless Effort Techniques at the Piano:

  1. Soften and slow down the mind

  2. Breath gently and deeply into the belly and then slowly exhale

  3. Become aware of your body sitting on the bench

  4. Think of practicing in slow-motion, like tai chi piano practice

  5. Imagine the fingertips like raindrops touching the surface of a pond

Doing some of these steps can relaxed the mind and make it more aware of minute details that will improve your piano playing

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