I hear this kind of question a lot: "As a musician, while practicing, how do I both enjoy the process and also ensure that I'm making progress?"
It may seem like there's a contradiction between those two, but to make progress, you do need to enjoy the process.
In this article (and video), I give 4 reasons why you're not getting as much satisfaction as you should be from practicing.
1. Pay attention
If you want to enjoy the process, you have to be paying attention to what you're doing.
A lot is going on while you're practicing. For example, you might notice:
For instance, you might hear something which causes you to feel something, and then you have an urge to respond in a certain way. It's all a very complex picture.
Now, if you're paying attention to what's happening, there's absolutely no way you can't be enjoying it on some level. This is because you can't be bored while you're paying attention to what's happening.
Tips for paying attention:
Whenever you find yourself getting bored or frustrated, try to notice as much as you can about what's happening in the present moment. The idea is not to get rid of the boredom or frustration. Instead, the idea is to get to know it better.
2. Listen to yourself
If you want to enjoy what you're doing you have to listen to yourself. Now, I don't mean listen to the sound that comes out of the instrument. Instead, I mean you have to listen to what's going on inside of you.
Do you want to be doing this?
Is this your idea to be practicing?
Is this your idea to be studying this instrument?
If the answer to any of these questions is "no", how can you possibly think that you're going to be enjoying it?
This is hard to do, by the way. Our culture teaches us that we're supposed to be doing lots of things that we have no interest in doing, and we're just supposed to deal with it. However, that cannot work. You must pay attention to what you want.
Tips for listening to yourself:
Ask yourself: if I had a magic wand that could give me absolutely anything, what would I ask for?
Notice what your mind tells you in response to this question. It is valuable information.
3. Enjoy your mistakes
If you want to enjoy what you're doing, and especially if what you're doing is practicing a skill, you're going to make mistakes. This means you need to learn to enjoy those mistakes.
This is what it means to practice. So, there's no possible way you can enjoy practicing if you don't enjoy making mistakes. And, if you don't enjoy practicing, you will not learn.
Of course, in terms of the end product, we don't want mistakes all over the place. But, you know you can't get there by not making mistakes. So, if your way of practicing is to avoid mistakes at all costs, that perfect end product will never get off the ground. Or if it does, it's going to be painful.
You must find a way to enjoy practicing. And, this is possible.
Tips for enjoying your mistakes:
Check out my course, where I teach you how to pay attention to mistakes, and what happens during mistakes so that you can find a way to get more in touch with that process and find a way to make it more meaningful to you. This will help you stay focused and balanced, and help you learn something from your mistakes, rather than spending all your energy trying to eliminate them.
4. Take risks
To enjoy the process, you have to be open to taking risks, and you have to do it gladly. If there's no risk, there is no possibility for any reward, so take risks.
When you have a feeling of excitement or possibility, like "maybe this will work (or maybe it won't)", try it. Yes, there may be a failure. Something might go horribly wrong, but that's the game that we're in here. So, take risks. Get used to that feeling of excitement, because that is the difference between enjoying what you're doing and the whole thing feeling like a total drag.
Tips for taking risks:
Notice what you are afraid to do. You don't have to do those things. But, notice the fear, and try to imagine yourself doing what you're afraid to do.
What would be different about your life if you didn't have that fear? Even if it's too scary to go all the way, is it possible to get just a little bit of that?
If you want to enjoy practicing a musical instrument, and enjoy developing that skill, keep these four principles in mind:
- Pay attention to what's going on.
- Listen to yourself (inside yourself, not not the sound that's coming out of the instrument).
- Learn to enjoy your mistakes.
- Take risks
If you try those four things you may find that your experience is going to be dramatically different, in terms of enjoying the journey.
Leave a comment below and let me know how it goes for you!