A lively and passionate discussion  where we introduce the ideas and research behind Self-Determination Theory, which could help you make giant leaps with your music. Some core topics covered in this episode include intrinsic & extrinsic motivation, autonomy, how rewards actually make us perform worse, ego & needing approval from others and ourselves, and how we can practise & cultivate intrinsic motivation in our own piano journey.

Show Notes

  • [2:55] Brief intro to Self-Determination Theory (SDT)
    • 3 Basic Psychological Needs: Autonomy, Competency, & Relatedness
    • Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation
    • What is Autonomy?
    • Rewards undermine intrinsic motivation
    • School, parents, society, etc can undermine intrinsic motivation by use of rewards
    • But some factors that promote autonomy will increase intrinsic motivation
  • [17:55] Continuum of extrinsic-instrinsic motivation:
    • External regulation (reward, punishment)
    • Introjection (ego, approval from self & others)
    • Identification
    • Integration
  • [27:00] Teacher’s role is to show students how to love the music more
  • [33:30] How to move towards intrinsic motivation:
    • -improve mindfulness (mindfulness is linked to autonomy in studies)- including practising non-attachment
    • -increase our sense of competence by letting go of perfectionism, and reducing comparison with others. Cultivate a felt sense of ‘always good enough’
    • -Remind ourselves why we play music- IMO the purest most helpful reason is to connect with the music, and other people through the music
    • -Resist unhelpful cultural baggage- especially in classical music
    • -Recognise introjection while practising/performing- and practise not reacting or identifying with it
  • [52:30]- How I connect with the music when I’m playing
  • [54:35] Competency vs relatedness:
    • Am I mainly being driven by a need to feel competent or am I bring driven by a desire to connect?
    • Being aware of this & moving to connection really helps me to perform well under pressure
  • [56:30] How to be a good student when you have a teacher
  • [59:10] Importance of a growth mindset (feeling competent enough)
  • [1:09:05] Zen and beginner’s mind
  • [1:10:15] Related academic fields and psychological skills:
    • Renee Brown on vulnerability
    • and Kristen Neff on Self-compassion
  • 1:16:55 We can see intrinsic motivation in its purest form when we watch children playing. When we lose this sense of playfulness as adults, we lose the performance benefits of intrinsic motivation & autonomy


Further Notes:

Many thanks to the C. Bechstein Centre in Manchester for letting us use one of their teaching/practice rooms to record this podcast episode: https://www.bechstein.co.uk

The intro/outro music is my jazz arrangement of the Rachmaninov Adagio from Symphony #2, you can watch the whole thing here if you like: https://youtu.be/hMqREAngb4s