Have you ever wondered what makes two people who seem to have the same levels of skill or ability reach very different levels of success in something?
One of the main reasons for this is the contrast in their amounts of motivation. Generally speaking, the people who achieve the most are the ones with the greatest motivation or “desire” for it.
The good news is that, if you don’t think you have high levels of motivation (some people are naturally more ambitious than others), you can actually ‘manufacture’ this desire in yourself. All it involves is for you to take a little time to think about and understand why you want to improve as a guitarist. When you’re really clear on the reasons for what you want, you’ll be amazed at how this will drive you unstoppably towards achieving your goal.
Give a Good Reason
Without establishing strong enough ‘whys’ you’ll understand only what you want (your goal), but not always be driven enough to do anything about it. Take a look at your 3-step goal from this article. Why do you want to achieve it? What would be the 3 best things about doing so? You don’t have to explain these reasons to anyone else so be honest.
One young guitarist from the U.K. openly admitted his motivation to me. He remembered moving home and starting a new High School. In his first music lesson two of the other boys had brought their acoustic guitars with them to play some accompaniment. When they took the guitars from their cases, he recalls how all the girls in the class flocked around the pair of them. It was at that moment he knew his destiny had to include playing guitar.
My point here is that you needn’t have noble or lofty reasons for your guitar dreams but it’s important that you’re honest with yourself so that you can use your own reasons ‘why?’ to help you achieve.
Deadlines Can Drive You
In my own situation that I mentioned earlier, I had a clear deadline which gave me a good reason or ‘why?’ which I was able to remind myself of whenever I didn’t feel like rehearsing or wasn’t feeling as positive. If you have a particular event or date in mind – use the power of setting yourself deadlines to drive you on to your goal.
Making Friends With Fear
Some of the greatest thinkers of all time believed that people are more motivated by fear of pain than the promise of pleasure. In fact, Aristotle is reported to have once said:
“The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.”
To harness the power of the fear of pain or failure and give yourself even more motivation think about the worst consequences of NOT achieving your guitar playing goals.
To the guitarist who’s goal is to improve his arpeggios, the fear or pain of looking a jackass if he fails to play the right notes may be as important (or more so) than the feeling of accomplishment he would get from nailing it.
For the learner who simply aims to play a handful of songs for the family at Christmas, maybe it’s the guitar sitting in its case for yet another year gathering dust. Or maybe the thought of the kids growing up and leaving home without them ever having the memories of singing along to their Dad’s guitar playing at Xmas.
Questions Are The Key
Questions can be very powerful tools to improve your motivation.
Ask yourself key questions to uncover your ‘whys’ for any goal – questions that explore both the positive and potential negative outcomes. For example:
- What will be awesome about achieving this goal?
- How could it improve my life?
- What positive impact would it have on those around me?
- How will I feel when I achieve this goal?
- What would be the worst thing about not achieving this goal?
- How could failing to achieve this make my life worse?
- What negative impact could this failure have on those around me?
- How will not achieving this make me feel?
You get the idea. Give yourself plenty of strong reasons why achieving your guitar playing goals are important and need to be achieved – reasons why failing to achieve your goals as a guitarist would be unacceptable and negative in your life.
Playing Through Your Reasons
So, what do you do once you’ve established these motivators? To use them most effectively you should remind yourself of them on a regular basis. This can be done in about 2 minutes flat. You can do it while waiting for a bus or at a red traffic light. Anytime you feel your desire for the goals waning, like you’d prefer to get on the Xbox rather than rehearse – you then refresh in your own mind what will be great about hitting your goals and what the ‘damage’ would be if you didn’t. When you do this, you’ll find your desire and motivation pumped up and this will give energy to your progress.
Some musicians, at the start of a new musical project that requires learning or improvement, will remind themselves of their ‘reasons why’ on a daily basis. It helps them make significant progress. If you can do this, you’ll find that, as time goes on and your guitar learning improves, you can leave longer periods in between using these mental motivators.
Boost Your Motivation With The Words You Use
Do you know how many words there are in the English language? The Global Language Monitor’s most recent estimate puts the figure at just short of 1.1 million. Interestingly though, the average English-speaking person uses no more than 20,000 as their “active” vocabulary. That leaves over a million words unused by most of us.
Words can have a particular emotional impact on us, especially when we describe things. However, because we use so few, we therefore use each of them more often and as a result they can lose this impact.
Think how different you feel about something when it is described as ‘wonderful’ as opposed to ‘good’ for example. The words we choose are potentially very powerful (or I could have said ‘Herculean’, ‘Muscular’ or ‘Potent’) in terms of motivating us – or not motivating us.
To give your goals and reasons why more impact, empower yourself by using some new words to describe them which resonate with you.
One care worker just wanted to be able to serenade his girlfriend by playing a song for her on her birthday. To boost his motivation, rather than describe her imagined reaction to his playing as simply ‘very happy’ whenever he ran through his reasons, he used words and phrases like ‘overjoyed’, ‘thrilled’ and ‘reduced to tears’. You can see the emotional impact and power these terms would have on this guitarist.
So, think about the words you use to describe your goals and your reasons why and see whether there aren’t more powerful alternatives you could try.
Sounding Yourself Out
A great way to maintain your motivation on a daily basis is by taking a moment to acknowledge every bit of progress – no matter how small. Earlier we looked at the power of asking ourselves questions and this is the tool you should use again here. Just take a moment at the end of the day to answer a few questions like:
“How have I developed as a guitarist today?”
“What have I learnt about guitar-playing today?”
“How am I a better guitarist today than I was yesterday?”
“What’s gone well with my playing/learning today?”
Make yourself come up with a positive answer for each of them.
You ask and acknowledge the fact that you are getting better as a guitarist on a regular basis and before long absolutely no-one will be able to shake your conviction about this as a ‘fact’.
The way these questions are phrased and the fact that you ‘force’ yourself to think of answers that confirm your development and progress is what makes this work. Strangely enough, you may have already been subconsciously asking negative versions of these kind of questions already. Questions like:
“Why can’t I learn guitar like other people?”
“Why aren’t I able to play that solo like they can?”
If this kind of negativity strikes a chord with you, we’ll look at it in the next section.
So, we’ve sorted out your motivation, the ‘why’ you want to learn guitar or improve your playing. We also looked at keeping motivated on a regular basis and how that helps you keep up the momentum to progress. You’ve now got 3 essential tools you can use whenever you feel your motivation flagging:
- Ask yourself what benefits will occur once you achieve your guitar playing goal.
- Question yourself about what ‘pain’ you’ll experience if you don’t pursue and achieve your goal.
- Acknowledge on a daily basis every achievement you make (no matter how small) as you continue to develop.
With your motivation for your goal boosted, let’s look at any of those negative beliefs you may have which will have held your guitar-playing back so far…