How The Pros Stay Motivated, and How You Can Too.
Rarely a week goes by that I am not asked how to stay motivated with practice. Whether you’re a parent of a student, or a student yourself – what do you do on those days (or weeks, or months) when you just don’t FEEL like practicing?
Believe it or not, this problem isn’t unique to students. I don’t think I’ve ever met a professional musician who wants to practice every single day. But they do anyway.
So what’s the secret?
A couple of months ago I gave a musician friend of mine a call. There was no answer, but I did get a text back: “Hey my practice time is about to start but I’ll call you tonight.”
It’s not a story I’d tell at parties, but it does prove a point. This is a very successful adult musician who could easily have decided take it easy and chat on the phone. He might not have even felt like practicing at that time. But the mindset he build for himself was: This is the time that I practice, come rain or shine or snow or sleet or whatever else. It’s not my time to text or chat on the phone or take a coffee break.
The habit of practicing at a specific time, creates great motivation and breaks down psychological resistance. But beware: the key word is “specific”. Just committing to practice every day won’t work (and will leave you feeling bad when you forget or don’t do it!)
The formula for building a practice habit is: Every day, before/after X, I practice.
Here are some common practice success habits I ask students to built:
“First thing in the morning while I’m having coffee before checking e-mail.” (This is mine!)
“The minute I get home from school and before starting my homework.”
“The second I walk in the door from work – before sitting on the couch or even having a snack.”
If you have children – you might be amazed at the results. Instead of “did we remember to practice today” it simply turns into “this is a thing we do every day”.
If you’re an adult – even if you’re too busy to practice, make a habit of just *sitting* at your instrument at a specific time. If you’re a parent of a young child, try the habit of doing at least 10-15 minutes of practice at a specific time with your child. Make this “our practice time”.
Don’t be surprised if all that pushback you’ve been getting transforms into positive motivation. And if you have a rebellious inner-child, like I do, you’ll get less resistance from them as well. That upward spiral is how you can keep music what it should be: a FUN process of learning an art that will last you a lifetime.
Let me know how it works for you. And Happy Practicing!
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