Pick a time of day when you can always practice, even for just a few minutes.
Choose a small amount of time that you can always do, for example, 5 minutes.
Set it on the calendar or sticky note or smartphone alarm.
Practice for just the allotted time.
If you feel you can do more or want to do more, go ahead, but don’t skip a day,
Make an X on your chart or calendar for everyday you practice.
Celebrate each small win with a small reward
As I said in a previous post, creating a practice routine that is at the same time everyday, in the same location, begins to cultivate a habit. Willpower is required at first, but then it becomes a trigger that sets the routine in motion.
Habits are what we are made of. Successful habits separate winners from losers. There’s no willpower involved, you just do it.
When I was a kid, I felt like loneliness was my best friend. It’s not like I wanted to be around him. He just clung to me.
We were the only Asian family in an all-white neighborhood in a suburb of New York City. The typical question was,
“What are you, Chinese or Japanese?”
As if those were the only two options.
“I’m Thai, Chinese and Korean.” I would try to explain.
This answer was usually met with bewildered stares and silence. Mind you, this was long before kimchi tacos, Pad Thai noodles and Sriracha hot sauce were even a blip on the radar of the general public. Heck, most people hadn’t even heard of sushi back then.
My New Best Friend
Somewhere along the way, though, I discovered music, who quickly became my new best friend. It was through music that I began to feel less alien, foreign and an outsider and more like “just one of the gang.” Through the bonds of shared passion for Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, I found new friends.
Music was the social lubricant and the universal language of our tribe.
I was 14 and teaching myself to play guitar. I needed to get better fast! Thus, I began to learn how to learn and how to practice.
I dove deep into technical exercises and repetition. I studied the form and structure of music. And I improved rapidly. I began to realize that I could improve my results by focusing on the things that gave me better results and leaving the rest behind. This was before I had ever heard of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. By focusing on that high leverage 20%, I was able to improve much more quickly.
One day I realized something profound.
Practicing what I already know is a waste of time. I need to practice what I don’t know to improve!
The Practice of Practice
Now, I am a professional music teacher, and I strive to teach the practice of practice to all my students.
Last week, I held a Parents Curriculum meeting where I shared my core belief:
“Learning a musical instrument is one of the best paths for personal development.”
It requires knowing how to study, learn and focus. These skills affect everything in life. Cultivating these skills will transform your child’s life forever.
Most people, kids included, will enthusiastically start a project like learning an instrument with great enthusiasm and a lot of willpower.
But there’s a problem with willpower.
Many world leaders, CEO’s and military commanders know about decision fatigue. It’s been proven- there is a finite amount of decisions you can make in a day.
It’s why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit everyday. He saved his decisions for designing life-changing products. It’s why President Obama didn’t choose his meals. (I don’t know about Trump.) Why waste limited resources?
It’s the same thing with practicing, and the good news is that you can design a practice routine.
Many successful people have a morning routine. New parents are familiar with creating a sleep routine for their infants.
It’s the same with practice.
By creating a practice routine that is at the same time everyday, in the same location, you begin to cultivate a habit. Willpower is required at first, but then it becomes a trigger that sets the routine in motion.
So take some time to consciously design a successful practice routine for your child that then becomes a daily habit. It will transform your child’s life and make your kids more successful. And, through the shared love of music, it may even open doors of friendship, too.