Expectations vs. Reality


Back in the day, long long ago, I taught a combined classroom of 6th,7th, and 8th graders and I was also the volleyball coach for the school. Boy, were we pumped! We thought we had it going! We expected to win the city championship.

But as the season progressed, we had to face reality. I actually don’t remember winning a single game (but that was a lot of years ago). The reality just didn’t match our expectations. Now I wasn’t a very good coach, and we came from a really small parochial school. But it was so disappointing. The girls got discouraged and the temptation was to just drop out and not even complete the season. But we persisted like good sports, and the girls had an opportunity to learn an important life lesson.

The truth is, reality is often going to fall short of our expectations. And that may have already happened to you with learning to play your instrument. You might have expected to be playing fluidly within a few weeks, but it’s not happening. You may be struggling with keeping your dulcimer in tune, getting your tabs lined up the way you want, sore fingertips, issues with accuracy. This expectation of flawless execution can be particularly challenging when it comes to rhythm.

Here’s the thing: when your expectations outpace reality, sometimes it means that your expectations were unrealistic and skewed based on what you’ve seen others do with what appears to be little effort. Keep in mind, when you watch our dulcimer heroes on YouTube or on Dulcimer Crossing, you don’t know the whole story of the immense amount of practice that has gone on behind the scenes.

Other times, feelings of disappointment in your own progress mean you don't realize and appreciate what you have already learned.

Most of us are too self-critical; we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we have been able to accomplish in a short time.

Keep this in mind. You bought the dulcimer because you love the tone of that instrument, you enjoy the songs that sound good on the dulcimer, and you look forward to the jams and fellowship with other musicians.

Don’t get caught up comparing your expectations to your current reality.

That’s a deadly disease that will kill your motivation. Just keep the expectations on your goal list, and give yourself permission to take as much time as needed to reach them.

Happy dulcimering,


1 comment

Butch Ross

One of the challenges of learning an instrument as an adult is that we're afraid to sound bad. But I tell my students, early and often, that I sound bad all the time, they just never get to hear it. 

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