Your practice must be:
It’s impossible to reach for something without a clear vision of where you want to go. You can “noodle around” but this isn’t a good use of time and energy. And sadly, that’s what most of us do. We pull out our instrument and noodle around aimlessly, hoping to get better.
Instead, know clearly what you want from each practicing session. Write long term goals, break them into smaller ones, and then into digestible chunks you can work on during each 30-90 minute practice period.
Having purpose and vision is not worth much if you don’t take action by planning your practice. Studies show that when you carefully plan a routine activity (like exercising, “laundry days”) and do it as close to the same time, EVERY TIME, something magical happens. You “habitualize” the activity and it becomes a part of your life rather than a “chore” you have to do.
Practice must also be pushed. This means you have to get outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Most musicians want to merely “rehearse” what they already know rather than push themselves to learn new stuff (like playing in unfamiliar keys, learning more advanced chords that are hard to reach or weird for the fingers to play). It’s something about harder stuff that’s boring for musicians who fall into the rehearsal trance. They feel good knowing that they can play what they know. But when it comes to playing something that’s challenging, if they can’t do it in 5 minutes, that part of the practice is over. Does this sound familiar? If so, make it one of your priorities to consciously keep practice PUSHED and watch how far you get.
Keep high energy. Have a spirit of expectation, knowing that you’re going to tackle something you’ve never tackled before (because your practice will be “pushed”). Be excited about practicing. Don’t look at the 30-90 minutes per day as a perfunctory task. Get pumped up. Change the association your mind has to practicing. In fact, it’s the same thing as exercising. If the mind links that part of your exercise where you feel like you can’t go on to pain, then the experience will be gruesome. But if your mind links that part of the exercise to “triumph” and “overcoming this last part of the battle,” then what would have been seen as pain is now a meaningful goal to reach.
If you want to shatter the glass ceiling that’s holding you back from getting to the next level, you must first get pumped or you won’t build enough passionate momentum to ram through the glass. “You’ll end up with a big knot upside your head,” as grandma would say.
Results don’t come overnight. But one thing that doesn’t fail, is that they COME… if you’re patient. The master musicians didn’t get there overnight. We see their “glory”, but don’t understand their “story.” And that story is usually a story of patience. You have to be able to keep practicing – and even though you may not see immediate results – you have to be able to know that they will come. Faith is believing something that isn’t there. Patience is key.
Lastly, with your patience must come persistence. You gotta stay on the course. This also goes hand in hand with “planned” practice. If you schedule everyday at 7pm, then stick with everyday at 7pm because when you break the pattern, then your mind will tell you to break it again… and again. But something supernatural happens when you become more and more persistent. The mind almost does the opposite.
For example, let’s say you’ve exercised nonstop for 100 days in a row without breaking one single day. I mean the same time (6:30 am) everyday… rain, sleet, or snow — what does the mind tell you when you have the slightest thought of not exercising the next day? It says, “You mean to tell me you’ve done this nonstop for 100 days and you want to ruin everything and start all over?” Compounding persistence works for you where inconsistency works against you (the more you break commitments, the more your mind tells you that you’re not reliable and that you’ve broken tons in the past so why not this new one).