When motivation strikes, it’s almost magical.
You feel a strong sense of purpose, excited to take on new challenges, with a seemingly endless supply of energy to work toward your goals.
Your laser focus enables you to masterfully organize your practice sessions for steady, constant improvement. And you accomplish so much that your friends and colleagues start to comment on how great you sound.
But then, without warning, your motivation vanishes.
And as your motivation slips away, your goals start to fade.
Before long, you find yourself spiraling in a sea of self-doubt. You know what you want to achieve, but you just can’t find the energy to get to work, so you start wondering if your goals are just too unrealistic. And as your discipline in the practice room decreases, guilt starts to creep in.
You find yourself feeling helpless as you wait for your motivation to return.
Unfortunately, you might end up waiting helplessly for a long time.
Instead, take action to fire up your motivation.
Rekindle Your Motivation
Give yourself 1 minute to consider your answers for the following questions:
- What upcoming musical event am I most excited to be a part of?
- What piece of music am I most enjoying working on right now?
- Which parts of my current repertoire scare me a little bit (in a good way)?
- What are my top three musical goals for the next 4-6 months?
Once you have the answer to each question, give yourself another minute to visualize each of your answers in detail.
For example, here are a few possible responses with guided visualizations:
- I am most excited for an upcoming symphony concert on which I’ll get to play one of my favorite pieces.
Visualize: Close your eyes and feel yourself walking on stage, seeing the lights, and looking out over an audience full of eager listeners. Hear yourself play your favorite part of your favorite piece. Enjoy the audience’s raucous applause at the end of the concert.
- I love the sonata that I am working on right now with my favorite pianist.
Visualize: Close your eyes and imagine preparing to play together with your pianist. As you begin playing, observe how it feels to collaborate. Hear the music as you connect with your pianist and revel in the joy of playing together.
- There’s a 12-measure section of my concerto that is so hard, but so cool sounding!
Visualize: Close your eyes and visualize the music for the really challenging section. Hear yourself executing the section with confidence. Observe how impressive it sounds. Imagine a close friend coming up to you after a performance and telling you that they particularly enjoyed how well you played this extra difficult section.
- My top three musical goals for the next 4-6 months: (1) Finish memorizing my concerto and perform it in an informal setting 2-3 times, (2) Take a leap forward in developing my vibrato technique, (3) Give a compelling performance with my chamber group next month.
Visualize: (1) Close your eyes and imagine how it will feel to give a fully-committed performance of your concerto from memory, (2) hear what your beautiful, well-developed vibrato will sound like in a few months, (3) visualize yourself giving an energetic, exciting performance with your colleagues.
Visualize as many details as possible. The positive emotional response that you experience during and after a detailed visualization can have a major impact on your attitude about playing.
Define Your Future Success
During this brief brainstorm session, you’ll identify what is important to you by defining where you’d like to be on your musical journey in one year.
For each of the following questions, consider what you would like to accomplish in the next 12 months.
- What major works will you learn and perform?
- If you could pick three technical aspects to master, what would they be? How will your playing be different when you improve these areas?
- Imagine that you are the founding member of a new chamber ensemble. Who would be in it and what would you play?
- What performances will you give in the next year? Who will come to hear you play?
- What result will these performances have on your life? Will you take advantage of new opportunities to establish yourself as an expert on your instrument?
- If you won a major competition in the next year, what aspects of your playing would convince the judges?
Everyone is different, but we can all benefit from getting in touch with where we’d like to be in the near future. Consider your answers to these questions and how they align with your day-to-day efforts.
Set Your Intention
Each day, before you start practicing, ask yourself the following question:
Are my actions today going to help me reach my goals?
Set your intention to work toward your goals every day.
Some days you’ll take giant leaps forward. Some days you’ll feel like you’re sliding backward. But if you set your intention to work deliberately toward your goals, your progress will add up over time.
Every long journey is made up of a series of small steps.
Develop Your Habits
Once your motivation fire is burning again, you can maintain your productivity and maximize your musical potential by introducing small changes to your habits.
If you ever struggle with procrastination (who doesn’t!?), check out this post on procrastination and developing new, powerful habits. If you struggle with time management and getting the most out of each day, read this recent post.
What do you do when you’re feeling un-motivated? Have you discovered any techniques that renew your energy to work diligently in the practice room? Tell me about them in the comments!
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