“How do I keep myself motivated?”
This is a question that most musicians seek out an answer for, a musing that is supposedly responsible for all our success. It also appears quite often in question-and-answer sessions, whether it be at university lectures, on Snapchat or the podcast.
Motivation is an internal process that causes us to act or behave in a way to make us move towards a goal. It is often praised as the secret sauce to our musical success. Don’t get me wrong, having motivation is great in that it keeps us moving forward, but relying on being motivated has one major flaw.
The thing is, motivation is a finite resource that relies heavily on external stimulation to keep us ‘motivated’, such as listening to a recording, watching your favourite artist perform live, or just like you are right now, reading this post. These external resources are without a doubt the most valuable things you can learn from, but there is one thing missing in this equation: your own self-discipline. The problem with relying on external stimulation for motivation is that it doesn’t last, it becomes too fickle and weak, and therefore you become less reliant on your own capabilities to pick up your instrument and practice.
So, how do I motivate myself to practice more?
You must eliminate the need to rely on external resources to make yourself practice – and to eliminate the need, you must create discipline.
Motivation doesn’t create results, discipline does.
The discipline of practicing 5 hours every day will undoubtedly give you incredible results. However, discipline is what you have to create. It will require a lot of mental energy to push yourself to create this discipline, which is why you should start small. If you have never practiced more than 60 minutes for a set period of time such as a month then don’t immediately set a the discipline of doing 120 minutes a day. It is too taxing on your mental energy, and you will without a doubt quit.
Starting small allows the task to be completed quite easily, for instance, practicing for 15 minutes every day. 15 minutes is not much and I would highly recommend you do more, but if you have never done this before, then it’s the best place to start. They say it takes 30 days to create a habit, so the ease of doing 15 minutes a day for 30 days will create a habit of daily practice. This new habit will then translate into a new discipline that you have created for yourself.
After 30 days, you will notice how 15 minutes has become very easy to do without much mental effort, and that’s because you haven’t relied on any external resources that sometimes give you an excuse to be lazy.
Now you may practice more than 15 minutes day, which is totally fine, but be careful to not burn out in a practice session and totally exhaust your brain, which will counterintuitively ruin the new routine you are trying to create.
After you’ve established your routine of 15 minutes a day, slowly stack up your practice time and work your way to 60 minutes for another month. And if you’re committed, you can easily create the discipline to reach 5 hours a day of practice.
By the way, don’t take this the wrong way, motivation is great and you should not dismiss it. But realise that true success comes from you putting in the hard work, and not from relying on external factors.
Motivation is unreliable, discipline is the key to success.
Best of luck practicing!