[This guest blog was written by my friends at Chordify.]
Everyone wants to be a rockstar. But becoming one means that you have to find the motivation to put in the hours every day, to fully master your instrument. How can you do that, by stay motivated every day?
We’re human. Sooner or later we begin to learn this is virtually impossible. Instead, use that drive to skilfully begin building routines.
Motivation is an impulse, it is a rush we get when we start something new. Everyone knows what happens when the stimulating clouds of novelty start to fade. Yes, motivation dies a lonely death. That’s why it’s important to utilize this active first period for the purpose of building a sustainable solution: a routine.
Get up, have breakfast, check your phone, get lost on social media, work, sleep, repeat. Sounds like a regular day and, overall, people feel they’re in control of most of its parts through the choices they make. But the fact still is that every day sort of looks like the last, right?
Still, everyone brings their own style in taking on life and handling the issues that come with it. Which fundamentally means we all create our own routines. This may entail wasting time scrolling through social media, or celebrating a success with a bottle of champagne. It’s all routine. Our whole life consists of small routines.
The Power of Habits
It has been said that it takes ten thousand hours to fully master any skill. If you’re looking to become a professional at your instrument, that boils down to playing for two hours a day for the next fourteen years. At first sight, that may not be the most motivating prospect. But, what if we try to turn practicing daily into a habit?
The good thing about habits and routine is that they become self-evident. They become deeply rooted in everyday practice, that it almost feels unnatural when you don’t carry them out. That’s a powerful mechanism.
Now imagine that playing your instrument for two hours a day is one of your habits. It doesn’t change the number of years of practice, but it does change your perception. After all, you practice every day no matter what. The number of years doesn’t change that.
Peace of Mind
Routine offers a peace of mind. It’s always there and it’s somewhat effortless. It’s a pre-programmed gift as it where, that can be repurposed for our own benefits. Sounds good? Have I got your attention? Good. Because, although it may sound easy, you do have to work for it.
Building a routine can be a long process, but you’re building something durable and sustainable. Everything starts with a first step, and we’ve listed four more that will help you build a practice routine. Key thought: long-lasting habits start with small mini routines. Try it out.
Step One: Write Down Your Goal
What do you want to accomplish? This is a pretty straight-forward question. Try to answer it as precise as you can. Do you want to play purely for leisure; get together once a week, drink a few beers, play covers, and master that mesmerizing solo in your favorite rock song?
Do you want to play two or three gigs a year in the town hall, without further obligations? Or do you have bigger plans, like world domination?
Every goal demands something different in terms of skill. A free-spirited jam session is a bit easier than being a professional and being able to lay down a tight beat on command.
Step Two: Be Realistic
Suppose world domination is your goal, but you’re desk-bound for forty hours a week, and you have a family, and five other hobbies. The chances of also finding the time to master an instrument to such a degree that you can conquer the world with it, are close to nothing.
So be realistic and manage your expectations. Think about those ten thousand hours of practice, that are needed for true professionalism. Sometimes you have to give up other things to follow your passion. But make sure that you know why you’re doing it by looking back at step one.
Step Three: Develop a Positive Habit
Stephen Guise coined the concept of a ‘mini habit’ in 2013. It’s a simple yet effective approach that can lead to forming sturdy routines. Two hours of practicing every day is quite a big commitment.
What if you start small? So small that the little procrastinating voice in your head doesn’t get a chance to complain. After having started you can go on as long as you want, but you have to reach your minimum every day.
Choose a time that is realistic and will allow you to progress as a musician. Don’t overthink it, just get behind your instrument and play. Even if its 10 or 15 minutes a day. And remember: the activity has to be so small and feasible that you could jump out of bed, do it, and still get in again before losing your pre-sleep slumber.
Step Four: Test Your Habit
Now, our estimation of what we can do doesn’t always comply with what we are actually able to do. You have to test whether your mini habit is feasible or not. It is still tempting to think that, instead of ten, you could do twenty minutes daily. Maybe you could, maybe you couldn’t.
The purpose of routine is a seamless incorporation into your daily life. So, experiment with different configurations. Play some songs, or practice some techniques, but always keep the time. As long as you can be involved with your instrument on a daily basis.
Step Five: Don’t Be Afraid To Fail
We applaud people that say they have succeeded at once in incorporating their mini habit, but for most of us it takes a while. Don’t beat yourself up about it. All good things take time. What you do have to do is keep trying. Which is a routine in itself.
Keep in mind that there are days on which everything runs smooth, without a cloud in the sky, but there are also definitely days that take more effort. On those days we turn to Rocky Balboa for some inspirational words: “Life is not about how hard you can hit, but how many times you can get up.” Happy jamming!