There is a very fine line between optimism and a sugar-coated reality. Too much of one and not another of the other can in a multitude of different settings, tip the balance irrevocably compromising a reasonable attitude to be maintained.
Embarking on a new performance project, technical challenge or even getting an instrument out of its case, perhaps after a significant gap and re-establishing a new practice regime, demands determination and courage. Having a certain amount of optimism to sugar-coat the reality of what will inevitably demand resilience when seemingly insurmountable challenges emerge is essential. To deny these challenges as a crude coping mechanism, downplay or over simplify in an effort to sugar-coat the reality of the task will sow the seeds for confusion to prosper. It is in reality side-stepping a far deeper consideration exposing flaws in self-belief and self-worth. These will put self-credibility and self-image at risk which is tantamount to self-dishonesty.
When Alex Honnold embarked on the challenge to climb El Capitan without ropes, skill equalled with self-belief were essential components which had to be developed and nurtured during the training that ultimately secured a successful assent. Risk was all too clearly a reality which had to be factored in, being receptive to the self-reporting voice of concern, where doubt or concern to an extreme difficulty was perceived with responsive strategies implemented. Optimism and determination could be considered as feeding off each other. Fuelled by a well-developed self-belief system. which is not afraid to expose inner vulnerabilities, confidence will then prosper. This alongside a scrupulous training regime to secure and develop skills, sustained Alex Honnold in his long and arduous training. Having a structured process coupled with determination and critical self-reporting skills enabled him to deal with the inevitable setbacks and doubts within the training before the breath-takingly successful assent documented on film.
Music performance or even daily practice might seem a long way from the sheer face of El Capitan, where one wrong move would lead to certain death. Nonetheless powerful forces manifested in feelings of resistance, lack of motivation and even fear can impair perspective tipping the balance in reasoned and constructive self-reporting. From practice and learning to testing and the performance, it is the words we choose in the feedback and the tone of voice of instruction we hear which are the essential qualities of self-reporting. Transparency in a process will also expose with clarity all the elements; intellectual understanding of the instruction, technical ability to facilitate, intuitive integrity and emotional intelligence to self-report responsively, responsibly and respectfully.
Sugar-coated reality must be a balanced metaphor that will give us the desire to reach beyond what we might think possible but with an honest sense of reality that rough times, resistance and self-doubt are an inevitable part of the journey. But if fear of failure is what is stopping you, then remember that there is only one true failure; not even to try. If you have made it over the start line then you are on the way!