In our time in school, we put ourselves on a steady track with the endeavor of continuous improvement. Get a better grip on the English language, learn mathematical functions of ever greater complexity, and improve one’s technique and expression in the playing or singing of music.
It is expected that professional musicians would, at the very least, maintain their level of technical skill throughout their careers, but it would be even better to continue to polish musical abilities as an ongoing process. Many musicians attempt to do this, some stagnate, and some regress because of a lack of interest or time. Getting stuck in a practicing rut is more likely than not, especially if a musician relies solely on solitary practice. Though that is a large piece of the puzzle, it is difficult for one to objectively analyze the end result, due to being a functioning part of an instrument or voice. What else can we do to foster improvement and growth in our field?
Continuous improvement requires continuous evaluation. Some of this can be done on one’s own with something like the Deming Cycle, in which one plans the steps needed, does them, checks in to see how it is or isn’t working, and then act accordingly. However, it is beneficial to get the opinion of at least another person. Read Patrick Ross’s article about how he improved his award-winning article through peer review. Peer writing circles are common, as are peer reviews in the area of visual art. Musicians could do this as well. The challenge for presenters of an idea or piece of music is to check the ego at the do, make peace with our imperfect selves, and recognize the criticisms given are to offer us a different perspective on aspects of our work, and not a condemnation of us as human beings.
Consider working with a small group of your peers whom you respect and trust, and see what actions you can take to become a better musician. Also, check out this article from The Bulletproof Musician and this one from Lifehacker regarding different approaches to practicing. Sometimes we can get ourselves to see a different perspective just by changing our routines.