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Correcting vs. Guiding

I was listening to John Mayer—one of my favourite musicians—on a podcast the other day and he mentioned a concept that I found fascinating.

He was talking about playing a song in the style of another musician. A specific song by a specific musician.

The host of the podcast asked John about the voice in his head, when he's playing someone else's music.

Specifically the host asked, "Is there always a voice when you're playing, correcting you?"

John's response was, "Um, ok, if correcting is not a bad thing, then I would say, keeping me on track."

I'd like to unpack this.

I see a big difference between correcting and keeping me on track. Let's call the latter guiding for the sake of this post.

So, correcting vs. guiding.

The voice in our head can be quite loud sometimes.

Especially when we feel we've done something "wrong."

Sometimes, you vocalize these inner sounds out loud.

"Come on Shum!" *shakes head disapprovingly*

If you've played a sport, any sport, this voice can be particularly prominent.


When the voice in your head is trying to correct you, it's implying that there is a right way of doing something.

It's evaluating you based on some standard, and when you deviate from that, it speaks in its correcting tone.

The issue I take with this is one of finality.

Correcting implies a single correct way.

There's often more than one way, right?

The other thing it's suggesting is that, if you did do the correct thing, then the outcome you were seeking would have been found.

The correct way, leads to the desired outcome.

What about all the factors outside of your control between performing an action and getting an outcome?

Luck, to name just one.


When the voice in your head is guiding you, it's just suggesting you do more of this and less of that.

The guiding voice cares mostly about you staying on the path.

So long as you're on the path, you can do anything you want. There are many ways to do things on the path.

If you're on the path, and you stay on the path, the guiding voice implies that the outcome you're seeking will come.

Perhaps not immediately, but it will come.

A guiding voice can show up whether you're on the path or not; whereas, a correcting voice only shows up if you've done something "wrong."


Let's guide ourselves, not correct ourselves.

It just feels more human.

p.s. My favourite book about the voice inside our heads is The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. It's a short and powerful read.

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