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How I motivate myself to practice guitar every single day

I was watching concerts of my guitar heroes, reading motivational quotes, and watching motivational movies and speeches. I spent countless hours on YouTube to boost myself for my next practice session. I was a motivation freak.

There was one problem though. The time I spent motivating myself ended up being than my guitar practice.

The strangest thing about motivating myself to practice guitar was that after 10 or 15 minutes I felt like my motivation was going down again. I couldn’t understand how that was possible since I had felt so pumped up just a minute ago.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about motivation and I’ve also studied a ton of material to help me better understand how human behavior works around it.

One thing that I’ve found out is that many aspiring guitar players feel bad about not feeling motivated enough to play and practice. They feel like they're not worth becoming great musicians if they don’t feel pumped about guitar all the time. What fascinates me even more is the advice they get from experienced players. For example:

“If you really loved playing guitar, you wouldn't be able to stop playing it.”

“Just put it on Craigslist now and be done If you're already losing interest and you refuse to take lessons, it's obviously not for you. Don't bother wasting more of your time with something you're not good at or into.”

“If you don't like doing it by yourself then it probably isn't for you.”

Let me tell you something.

There is nothing wrong with you if you don’t feel motivated all the time. That’s perfectly normal. Everybody feels down from time to time, even people that we call guitar heroes. There are no exceptions.

Here's what science has to tell us about motivation.

How does motivation work?

According to the research of Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg, motivation works in waves. There are times when we have high amount of motivation to do certain behaviors but there are also “down” times, when we lack this kind of motivation. See below:

Image Source: rioleo.org

It's no surprise then that sometimes we just can’t make ourselves do things that we planned to do. If you're at a low point, it's almost impossible to motivate yourself to do hard things. You can pump up your motivation for a while, but it probably won’t last very long. You just can’t motivate yourself to practice guitar every single day.

If you take guitar seriously then motivating yourself to practice is not a good long term strategy. You should definitely utilize the motivation when it is there, but you also need to have a plan for times when you don’t feel motivated. And believe me, those times will come (I just being honest).

Here are two mindset shifts that can help you when motivation is missing:

1. Let go of the assumption that you need motivation to become great guitar player

As you saw before, motivation works in waves and one day you can feel on the top of the world, and the next day you’ll have a hard time getting out of bed. One day you feel inspired and happy and the next day you're down and out.

And here's a solution: First, let go of the assumption that you need to feel good and motivated to be able to practice guitar. Sure it helps, but you can also do some serious work even when the odds are against you. For now I just want you to let go of the notion that you are not good player because you don’t have enough motivation. Trust me. You have more motivation than you’ll ever need.

When I feel good and my motivation is high, I go straight to practicing the toughest stuff. As Brain Tracy says “eat that frog.”

When I don’t feel very well I go through a simple ritual.

I sit down in my chair and do a couple of rhythmic breaths to get some good oxygen into my brain. After a few minutes of breathing I can certainly feel better and then I start thinking why I need to practice and what do I want to accomplish. I try to recapture that joy and passion for guitar that I know for sure lies deep inside me. I remember all those moments when my music helped people feel better. I try to see the big picture: Playing and practicing guitar is a privilege and I'm lucky that I can make my living playing and teaching guitar. Then I take my guitar and start practicing. My practice habits sometimes need a little push, but that’s ok.

2. Start simple, embrace consistency, build habits

No matter how obvious this may sound, this is the way to go. If you are serious about playing guitar, you are going to practice for the rest of your life, so don’t try to do it all at once. You have plenty of time.

You can practice for 5 minutes even if you don’t feel motivated. Don’t even think about motivation. You can use it when it’s there, but you don’t rely on it. Start with a practice routine that's so simple that it's almost impossible not to do it. For the first few weeks just focus on consistency. Don’t worry about volume. Once practicing your guitar everyday feels like second nature, you can modify your routine to fit your goals. Simplicity and consistency will help you build habits faster than if you try to change everything at once.

For every new habit I want to acquire I use this little box with numbers from 1 to 30.

I always start with a very simple version of habit like “reading 5 pages a day” or “singing for 5 minutes.” I stick with this simple routine for 30 days, and I put big X over each day. Ideally, I would like to read 100 pages a day and sing for at least 30 minutes. But I'm not delusional. I know that I'm too busy for that. It is just not that high on my priority list.

So instead of being frustrated about what I can't do, I change the game so I can succeed everyday even when I'm not motivated. Reading 5 pages a day is and I don’t feel anxious about it. I just do it. And I know it's just a matter of time before I start reading more.

Forming a habit requires an increased amount of energy in the beginning but after the habit is built, you start doing those behaviors on auto-pilot. Just like brushing your teeth. The best thing is that once the habit is formed, you can slowly adjust quantity so it fits your needs. Practicing guitar consistently for 2 or more hours a day is not a problem if you don’t rush it.

If you don’t feel motivated today, don’t worry. Just acknowledge it! Realize that you can accomplish great things anyway and get to work. Start small and simple. And of course, enjoy the process.

What are your tricks to make yourself practice consistently every day?

About the author:
Lukas Kyska is a guitar teacher, player and founder of The Aspiring Guitarist blog where he helps guitar players overcome mental barriers and plateaus and shares scientifically proven ways to practice properly and learn faster.

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