Why You Should Not Count On Motivation Or Inspiration In Your Guitar Practice

by Derk Stiepelmann

I often see how students expect to be constantly motivated  to practice and when they have periods in which they are not that eager to sit down with the guitar (which they inevitably will), they feel bad and beat themselves up with ongoing negative self-talk or they get distracted by a shiny object (how about a new hobby?) that pulls the student of the path, so he feels that he has not really given up, but  that his priorities have simply shifted. Feels much better than realizing than we have given up, right?

The  problem arises out of our expectation, that motivation can and should be a constant. This is unrealistic,  because motivation is like anything else in life – it has it´s highs and lows. The trouble begins when we make the highs the standard and blame ourselves for the lows. So, how can we avoid all this?

  First, we realize and accept that motivation is not a constant. It will go up and down. That´s okay and means that we will have days and periods of time, when we cannot wait to practice and we feel great. At some point it will shift and we might have very little energy to practice at all. That´s the nature of cycles, so let´s not get upset about it or wonder about it. 

Second, we replace our reliance on motivation to practice by making it a habit that is  independent on how we feel each day. We feel great – we practice. We feel bad – we practice. That´s it. It does not matter how we feel about it – we simply sit down and do the best job we can, regardless of circumstance. 

Let me ask you this: do you have days when you don´t brush your teeth, because you don´t feel like it? I hope not. You might not feel like it, yet still you do it, because it needs to be done  and it benefits you. That´s all there is to it. Think about your guitar practice the same way. As a guitarist, having a daily practice is simply  a part of your day and part of what you do. Sometimes you feel great and love the practice, sometimes you don´t, but that does not stop you from sitting down and doing it.

Do you think Michael Jordan always loved to  get the ball through the hoop thousands and thousands of times every single day? No. There must have been days, when he must have felt like not doing it at all, but I am sure that he still showed up on the court to train,  day in and day out.  Motivation and inspiration are great – enjoy them, but do not get dependent on them nor wait for them. Just get to work by making it a habit. Schedule your practice in your calendar, just like you schedule anything else in your life and sit down with your guitar when it is time. What happens, when you fall off the horse and did not practice although you had scheduled it in your calendar? Nothing, you simply  get back on the horse the next day and begin again. It takes time to turn something into a habit, so be patient with yourself.

About the author: Derk Stiepelmann  is a guitar teacher at  Songwriter´s Shed. If you are looking for guitar lessons in Dortmund, Germany, click on the link to visit the website.