How to Perform Better with Less Effort

Here’s how I used to approach performance preparation (especially when I was a student). I’d start practicing the pieces not paying very much attention to details. I’ve got all the time in the world, right? Or so it felt. I’d often get distracted when practicing, thinking about all sorts of other things as I did. But as the performance drew closer, I’d start to feel the pressure. I’d put more effort in, especially in the days before, trying to control the outcome. Sounds familiar?



Suffice to say, I wouldn’t recommend this approach. I’d actually go so far as to strive for the complete opposite. The perfect example of this is the concept of effort and surrender in yoga. They might sound like contradictions but the reality is we need a balance of both.


In yoga philosophy, the concept of effort is called Abhyasa. Different teachers use different translations of the word but the gist of it is regular and consistent practice over a long period of time. Needless to say this to you as a musician, but this is what will get you results in your work as well as in your yoga practice.

Here are a couple more things about this Abhyasa:

  1. It builds on itself, snowballing and picking up momentum.
  2. It relies on you being present.


On the other hand, surrender comes from the word Vairagya. For the purposes of this blog post, you can also understand it as letting go of the results of the consistent practice.

Now, I don’t know about you but I have a much easier time embracing the concept of effort than surrender. Surrender can be hard and even scary sometimes. And although it took me a really long time, I eventually realized that it might actually get me better results when applied correctly.


So to make this look really professional, here’s a little graph of how I would approach performance preparation. Now it’s important to say that it is an illustrative resource. This concept will work differently for different people but I believe the general direction to be correct. Notice that both concepts are present at all times but in different quantities.

Effort vs. Surrender


The reality is, as much as we would love to control each and every aspect of performance, life doesn’t quite work that way. I’m speaking from experience here. So instead of fighting the uncertainties of life, how about we invite more softness in, learn to relax into and accept them, and just decide to enjoy the ride?


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