Passion, Habits and Music

Yesterday I came across a fictional story about a student who went around asking her classmates how they studied.  But she didn’t ask just anyone — she sought out those who were good in particular subjects and asked about how they studied the subjects they liked.  But she couldn’t figure out any patterns, as the responses varied in terms of specifics.  She thought the only common threads were that they liked the subject and they engaged with it daily with some sort of real-life application of the subject, whether it’s math, science or social studies.  They often said I don’t “study” it.

That story made me realize that there are still huge mismatches between what I want to do with my life and what I actually do.  As in:

  • I love music, but I don’t listen everyday.
  • I love guitar, but I don’t play everyday.
  • I have some feelings I want to experience, but I don’t feel them everyday.

Back in December I was asked to accompany my daughter’s flute solo performance on guitar.  It was a simple Christmas carol but not being a classical guitarist, I did have to practice.  I didn’t do it everyday but I played the same piece over and over.

I noticed over the course of that preparation that I went through different stages.  At first I was focusing on playing the right notes at the right time, and not making any undesired noises.  Then there was a point at which the hands did get used to the movements and I could play without mistakes if I focused on visualizing the upcoming notes.  The trick was to always stay ahead of where I was and pay attention to what was coming next.  Then after that, I noticed I could play even when my focus got off because my body got so used to playing that song.  I started focusing on things like dynamics and phrasing and less on the notes.

This probably sounds obvious to everyone who practices musical instruments, but I had forgotten what it’s like to prepare a piece for performance.  I’m either writing/creating something new or improvising so this was a good reminder of the power of repetition.

So repetition is the key to becoming good at making something happen, and passion is the fuel that drives the repetition.  And I believe we can apply this concept to everything in life.  If you want to build strong muscles, you do resistance training on a regular basis.  If you want to experience more happiness in life, then you practice being happy regularly.

How do you practice being happy when your life doesn’t feel that way?  There are many ways, but I believe in the power of music to create a safe place for us to feel certain emotions.  One song may not do it but if you string together songs that convey the same kind of emotion, you’ll eventually get won over.  When you’re used to feeling a certain way, then you get better at interpreting life’s events from the point of view that produces that feeling.

To sum up, I realized that there are still gaps between what I desire and what I routinely do in my life.  And the gap exists solely because I built up habits that don’t serve me.  Now is the right time to change that, and start seeing real results instead of just wishful thinking.  I am the only thing in my way, and I am the only one who can change that.