The secret of getting ahead is getting started - Mark Twain
Motivation is a puzzling phenomenon. It ebbs and flows. It can be the carrot or the stick. It can be an internal compulsion or an external force. In whatever form motivation appears to us though, it is always fueled by the answer to one question: why?
We are motivated to do something for a reason. It may be a reward or a positive result that causes us to act or the threat of an unpleasant consequence. The fact is we humans require a reason, a “why” in order to get ourselves moving.
When our “why” is strong, we feel energized and we make great strides. When our “why” is weak, our energy fades and our interest wanes. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to break out of our listlessness and get moving again.
In our current pandemic situation, many musicians are finding it difficult to stay motivated. When there are no performances on the horizon, it is a challenge to summon the energy to keep practicing. Yet practicing is not only how we keep our skills sharp, it is how we stay connected to our music which is so vital to our inner wellbeing.
The mistake I see so many musicians make is that they rely on seeing progress in their playing to spark their motivation. Certainly seeing good results from your practice will keep you motivated to do more, but if you are counting on seeing progress in order to stay motivated you are on shaky ground.
One of the truths about practice is that progress reveals itself unevenly, in fits and starts. There may be a long spell when your work isn’t yielding visible results. This is the time when it’s hard to keep working, yet this may be exactly the time you need to keep at it. Like a seed which grows underground before we see it break through the soil, your practice creates the root system which will allow your music to grow and blossom, even if you can’t see it happening.
We understand that practice leads to progress. So without the motivation to practice, progress wouldn’t be possible. And each forward step leads to more progress. That’s how we build and sustain momentum. The entire process looks like this: motivation leads to action; continued action in the same direction creates momentum.
The process is simple but when the motivation to practice is gone, it comes to a screeching halt. When we feel we have no reason to practice, we tend to back off. Certainly, we don’t need to run in high gear all the time, but taking it easy can become inertia in a split second if we aren’t doing something to prevent it. And it’s very hard to recover from inertia.
All the self-help books will tell you the most powerful motivation lies within us, that our personal “why” is our prime motivator. That is no doubt true, but I find it easier when I enlist a little outside help. Keeping my promises to others is always easier than keeping my “promises” to myself. The technical term for this is “accountability” and I believe in using the power of accountability to support my inner resolve.
If you’d like to do the same, I will share my favorite three ways to make sure I keep practicing even when my inner motivation is weak. I hope one or more of them may help you stay motivated. Plus, all of these ideas work in-person or virtually so you have no excuse not to try one.
Regaining your motivation is hard. You want to act before it slips, but it’s even better to prevent it from slipping in the first place. To do this you need a system that will let you experience forward progress regularly, that lets you create, build and sustain momentum so that motivation isn’t an issue for you..
I’d love to teach you my personal system and I will be doing just that in a special intensive workshop called “The Momentum Miracle.” It is happening on Sunday, February 21st, 2021 at 2 PM Eastern time. Click the link below for all the details. I hope you can join me!