Resolve

Maintaining ‘New Year’s’ Motivation

It’s around this time that those resolutions, which were made with the best of intentions and perhaps a little inebriation, start to slide. The commitment wanes on that healthier lifestyle plan and January’s challenges may need balancing out with some self indulgent decadent eats and treats, stress relieved with a spot of party time and as for that early morning run, yeah right! A new beginning is a great time to address any behaviors that we want to improve on which is why the NY resolution is such a powerful idea. Did you at any point connect this to your music practice? And if so how generalized was your resolution? I really must practice more/procrastinate less are often usually the most common made by most musicians, that and you know, to be mega-famous, rich and revered! Regardless of the time of year we can be struck by the desire to look at breaking the pattern of our current methods in the hope that we can become more effective and reach new heights of technical skill. Why do decisions made with such strong intentions falter so quickly?

Accountability

Lets consider how  you will keep working at the things you want improvements in. Well first try to consider why you want this and visualize where it could lead, what could it do for you? Resolutions tend to be founded in ‘activities’; I will stop smoking, I will walk to work, I will play arpeggios, the issue here is there is no identification as to the benefit in doing so. Why would you do something without knowing what it is for? I will save money and improve my health by not smoking and walking to work; with that money I’ll buy some new effect pedals and the increased lung capacity will improve my backing vocals. Here lays an obvious outcome attached to the carrying out of the activity; what’s more there is an identified return, a reward. I myself am battling with this one currently and yeah, it’s challenging, writing this now I really, REALLY, want to smoke. However I have identified why I’m quitting and noticed improved vocal range and breath control already and I’ll look at some new gear options to give myself a boost. The arpeggios I am finding to be even more of a challenge, as a feel player I’m trying to get some tidier technique going; less dead notes, cleaner picking and a smoother, faster run at my lead lines. It takes discipline not to just jam in my usual style; grinding and sliding around dragging notes all over the place, I find approaching this with a workout mentality has been useful, building that initial muscle memory I allow myself to run these exercises whilst watching TV or listening to music sometimes, this helps when I get really bored! The understanding that the fingers are ‘training’ regardless of whether my ear is focused or concentration is being applied, and yeah, I think I am seeing some benefit; I’m definitely increasing speed. I have set my next challenge on from this; to sweep, although I may be in need of a shredder type guitar for that, awesome, motivation via guitar shopping! Holding your self to account is the art of saying you’re going to do something and then going and doing it, there’s a lot of talk in the music industry, which isn’t always equal to the follow through.

Focus on your Process

Create a habit out of the act of developing, guitar is the greatest game as its one we’ll never ever finish. I suggest you try sharing this journey, it will help to ensure you maintain the commitment, recently I trialed Facebook live-ing jam sessions and rehearsals, its been challenging allowing others to see songs, pieces or technique which I know aren’t ready to be shown never mind at any sort of standard but this does make you want to improve, and fast! You want to share/post an improved version as soon as you’ve moved it along a little so that everyone can see this better version as quickly as possible. As an approach with links to our sense of vanity it can have a huge impact on our drive, but also more than that, not only does this process create content but it also stimulates responses from those who see it. If the ego can be tamed and this work in progress exposed you’ll be surprised at how inundated with suggestions and support you’ll become. This interactivity is energizing and can heighten the sense of achievement when you do arrive at the desired level, your cohort rooting for you. I’ve also trialed this method with students and have been very impressed with their progress as a result, their bravery for showing willingness to partake fills me with pride. By sharing our lessons and learning activities I can also review my teaching practice and look to identify areas for improvement in my delivery.

Targeting

As mentioned, measuring your progress is key, being able to see the improvements you are making will have an impact on how motivated you are. Make sure you allow yourself to see the progress and create opportunities in which to do so, as with the sharing or broadcasting method, document your activities in an audio or visual manner and allow time to review what you have captured. Remember to do so with a positive slant, actually look for the ‘improvements’, this term can create a mind frame which is often negative, the need to improve but the desire to and the implementation of methods to start the journey of improving is something that needs to be celebrated. Make sure the activity itself is not too big, like ‘getting really good at guitar’, the definition of what you’re going to do needs to allow you to feel achievement sooner rather than later. With this sweeping thing I’ll start off with like a pentatonic scale utilising only 2 notes per string before building up to the serious stuff and I’ll be recording as I go to watch my contorted concentration face back and cringe as I do so. Be specific about what is getting done, perhaps you could take a look at your practice routine and ask yourself what more can you do, perhaps hunt down an extra ten/twenty/thirty minutes in your day and work in a different manner to usual, changing things up provides fresh stimulation for the mind. Why not try 10 minutes first thing, practice as soon as you wake, then 10 minutes as soon as you come in from your day (work, etc) and ten minutes before bed/sleep. Alongside your main bulk of ‘play’ time this is adding an additional half hour on job, which is going to show quickly. Explore playing in different places/spaces, collaborate with new people/players, get out to jam nights/open mics you’ve never been to before, etc.

Making a resolution; ‘New Year, New You’ or it’s just plain overdue, needs to consider how you will apply the resolution if its going to be successful. Develop your skills by holding yourself accountable for improving in these areas and identify the rewards of doing so, focus on the process involved and target each one to ensure you are progressing. Practice is beautiful.

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