Over the years I’ve had the privilege to help a lot of guitarists improve their playing. And although each and every one of those players was a unique individual, I can feel very confident in making the following statement…
Maniacal obsession crushes interest any day of the week.
What do I mean by this?
It’s pretty simple. If you’re only interested in improving your playing, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll play to a high level. But if you’re obsessed about improving your playing, chances are that one day you’ll play to a very high level.
I’ve seen it time and time again. The students who are the most obsessed with getting good, tend to get good. The main reason, of course, is that they have the emotional drive to do what it takes. They’re willing to endure the setbacks and frustrations that come with learning guitar. They’re also willing to make learning guitar a priority in their life.
A Few Examples
Although I’ve taught many students over the years who have had incredible drive to improve, here are a few examples that immediately come to mind. I have left out their names for privacy reasons…
This is a current student of mine. He gets up at 4:00 am to practice for two hours. Often he’ll also have a practice session for one hour in the evening. He does this because he works long hours, and also has a family.
This was one of my students that I taught quite a few years ago. He saved up six months living costs and then quit his job to practice full time.
This was another one of my students that I taught in New Zealand. He sold his three-bedroom house and bought a small one-bedroom apartment. This allowed him to then cut down to working part-time.
Are They Nuts?
I know some people reading these examples probably think that these students were crazy. And that’s entirely the point. Guitarists with an incredibly strong desire to improve will often do things that seem irrational to the average person. For example, they might give up financial security in order to give themselves a lot more time to practice.
Of course, you certainly don’t need to go to the extremes that these students did. But it is important to realise that if improving your playing isn’t incredibly important to you, then chances are you’ll struggle. You need to find a way to make improving a must rather than just a casual interest.
Building Your Vision
I feel that developing an extremely clear vision of what you are trying to achieve over the long-term by practising the guitar is very helpful. It not only helps to build your desire, but also helps you answer important questions such as…
- What are the most important things that I need to practice?
- What things are a waste of time to practice?
- What books, DVDs and other educational resources do I need to learn from?
- What guitar teachers are best able to help me?
- What short-term goals do I need to work towards?
Without a clear vision, it’s impossible to answer those questions.
So what’s the best way to build your vision? While I don’t believe that there is any single way that is best, here are a few things you might want to keep in mind…
It Should Excite You
It’s pretty hard to be motivated if the thing you are working towards doesn’t excite you. So make sure that the vision you develop makes you feel excited just by thinking about it. If it doesn’t make you want to get up earlier and go to bed later, then it’s probably not exciting enough.
It Should Be On A Time Frame That Motivates You
I know some people recommend developing a vision based on a very long-term time frame. (An example of this would be imagining how you would like to play in 20 years time). For me, this provides no motivation whatsoever. I tend to get a lot more motivation by using a vision that I feel is about five years down the road.
Remember, the goal here is to develop a vision that creates motivation for you. The aim isn’t to become some goal-setting-douche who believes that their way is the only way to do things. If imagining something 20 years down the road motivates you, great. But if that is too far away to motivate you, then use a shorter timeframe.
It Should Be Clear
Can you close your eyes and imagine it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it? It is important that your vision is as vivid and as exciting as you can make it.
You Should Believe You Can Achieve It
While it’s great to develop a vision that is very challenging, I don’t think it’s wise to choose something that you think is impossible. How motivated are you going to be if you don’t believe the thing you are working towards is possible?
I think the important thing to realize here is that only you can be the judge. If you truly believe that you can achieve your vision, no matter how ambitious, then go for it.
Create Your Vision Now
Let’s now take some time to create your vision. I really recommend giving it your best effort. Put a lot of thought into it. I also recommend writing your answers down. Let’s get started…
I’d like you to imagine that it is five years in the future. You have diligently practised for the last five years, and are now taking a bit of time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished.
- What style of guitar playing are you best at?
- Are there any particular techniques that you are really good at?
- What are some characteristics of your playing that you feel particularly proud of?
- What specific improvements have you made to your playing over the last five years?
- What frustrations with your playing have you managed to overcome?
- Are you playing in a band? If you are, what sort of band is it? Does it play originals or covers? How often do you gig?
- What are some things that you’ve accomplished over the last five years? For Example: Have you written any of your own songs? Have you recorded an album? Are there any specific cover songs that you can now play?
All done? great!
Now I’d like you to close your eyes and imagine yourself playing in five years time. Try to see, hear and feel it as clearly as you can. Do this for at least 5 minutes. The goal is to do it until you feel excited.
A Few Last Thoughts
I know for a fact there are some guitar players out there who won’t even give this exercise a go. They probably feel too “grown-up” or “logical” to even try it. They might even see the whole idea of visualisation as being ridiculous.
And that’s perfectly fine. All I know is that every time I visualise how I ideally would like to play, the more motivated to practice I feel. And the more motivated I feel to practice, the more I practice. And the more I practice, the better I get.
So keep an open mind and give it a go. Hey, it might also work for you! 🙂
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