My guide word for 2018: Consistency.
I suppose you could call it a New Year’s resolution, but for me it’s more a reminder of what is important to me and the imperative to keep those things not just top of mind, but top of schedule as well.
I find, and perhaps you have noticed this too, that when I can create habits around the things that are truly important to me, everything feels easier. I believe that is because those habits create alignment between my desires and my actions. I’m acting on my goals, not just thinking about them. Consistency makes my goals sticky.
When I consistently implement the actions that will lead me to accomplish my goals, I find that I instinctively shed the distractions and detours that are the enemies of achievement.
Naturally, this applies to any area of life: relationships, physical health, spiritual growth, and of course – music.
In my experience, the musicians who succeed in reaching their goals are those who are the most consistent in their approach. They create strong habits around their practice, study and performing, not inflexible ones, but habits that serve as the foundation for accomplishment.
I invite you to consider your musical goals for this new year and how creating more consistency could help you realize them. If you need some encouragement, read on about three powerful effects of consistency.
We’ve all experienced this: you come back to the harp after a well-deserved vacation to find that your fingers are rusty and stiff and that the music you knew so well two weeks ago seems irritatingly unfamiliar. That’s to be expected after a break, of course. You do some technical rehab and review and you’re back on track in a few days.
Unfortunately, any break of a few days or a week – whether you were away or just plain swamped with work – wreaks the same havoc on your playing. If your practice schedule is on a “when I get around to it” basis, you are sabotaging your efforts.
To maintain your level of progress and prevent backsliding, you need to have a consistent, meaning more or less daily, practice schedule. If you have an extra hectic time, have a practice plan for that too, a sort of emergency practice plan that will see you through the time crunch.
A consistent practice schedule doesn’t just keep you from losing ground. It actually multiplies your progress.
The results of practice reveal themselves over time. You might not notice a lot of improvement in a day or two, but a week or two should show you major growth.
So where inconsistency thwarts your progress, consistent practice reinforces and increases the results of your work. It’s the tortoise and the hare principle again; steady work will get you to the finish line faster than a sprint here and a nap there.
This is the most overlooked benefit of consistency in my opinion. When you practice, take lessons and play on a consistent basis, you stay connected to your music in an active, positive way.
You stay interested and motivated; after all, progress begets more progress. The more consistent you are, the easier it is to see progress, which is in itself energizing and motivating. The more motivated you are, the stronger your motivation becomes. A circle, yes, but hardly a vicious one.
What stronger motivator could there be to practice than knowing that, having come so far on yesterday’s practice, you can go even further with today’s?