Why You WON'T Practice

Dec 13, 2022

If you haven't stuck with a practice routine in the past, then you'll need to gain some clarity as to WHY you haven't.  I mean, you've got to discover the real reason you haven't practiced consistently. Sure, sure, you're busy, you've got a lot going on, you're tired, you don't know what to do, blah blah blah.  

These are certainly things that can keep you from practicing but, again, what is the real reason you aren't sticking with it?  Yes, there's possibly something deep down that you might not even be aware of that is keeping you from working on your skills on a regular basis. 

In other words, I could give you a million tips on practicing, but if you still have your same "old self", they won't make one bit of difference; not in the long run.  You've got to find out what kept you from practicing in the past, so you can guarantee that you succeed in the future.  You have to understand all the forces, conscious and unconscious, that have kept you from consistently practicing.  Only by knowing and controlling these forces will you be able to permanently change your attitudes and behaviors about practicing. 

This is the FIRST thing that a Practice Warrior needs to address!  It's understandable if you're skeptical about this.  But the first step in changing your playing is changing your ‘self'.

The Pleasure-Pain Principle

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, developed the concept of the “Pleasure-Pain Principle”, which is the seeking of pleasure and the avoiding of pain to satisfy both our biological and emotional needs.  In other words, people will do almost anything to either get pleasure or avoid pain.  These forces may be working against you without you even realizing it.  This is especially true with things that require consistent effort, like practicing a musical instrument.  If you can understand these forces and use them to your benefit, you'll gain something much stronger and longer lasting than inspiration or motivation.  You'll literally change your behavior.  You can use these powerful tools to your advantage and achieve what you want instead of always having to rely on 'motivation' to get things done. 

Sounds great, right?  The understanding of this concept has been used by business strategists and life coaches like Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn with great success in developing optimal performances for their clients.  We're going to borrow these concepts to help YOU figure out what unseen forces are guiding you in your life, and how to use them to help you become a Practice Warrior! And since you're reading this right now, I'm assuming that the strategies and motivations you've attempted to get better at playing music have not worked to your satisfaction.  Am I right?  I feel your frustration.  I spent nearly ten years struggling with trying to practice regularly until I learned this strategy.  

So let's talk about how we can use the driving energies of pleasure and pain to work for you when it comes to practicing.   The initial step is to consider what forces are keeping you from practicing.  First, let’s see how you can feel pleasure from not practicing.  Now, it seems silly to think that NOT practicing can actually bring you pleasure, but it absolutely can.  What would be pleasurable about not practicing your instrument? 

“If you don't practice, you'll have the pleasure of...”

Having more time available for other things, like watching TV or hanging with friends.
Not having to fail at something (since you never engaged in the first place).
Possible delusion that you don't even need to practice.
Not having to put in so much effort on something. 
Not having yet another task to deal with in your busy schedule. 
Not having to feel bad about where your skills currently are. 

Again, it might be weird to think that these so called 'pleasures' are what might compel you to not practice.  Believe me, these thoughts and feelings can be VERY powerful forces, conscious or otherwise.

So now let's talk about how you might associate pain with practicing. 

“If you practice, you'll have the pain of”

Not sounding good at first.  That might make you feel bad about yourself. 
Potentially giving up something more 'fun' to do in order to practice.  
Being tired and mentally worn out from practicing.
Doubt...that maybe this practicing stuff doesn't work and you'll never get better.
Being responsible to stick to your schedule and not make excuses.
Feeling bad and upset with yourself when you don't follow through and practice.

These are just a few examples. While they might be subtle, they can be powerful forces that knock you off your path and keep you from achieving what you set out to do.  

Now, this has all been theoretical up to this point.  Time now to make it practical, personal and specific to you.  Take some time to write down:

Why is it pleasurable for you when you don’t practice?
Why is it painful for you when you do practice?

You may be surprised to find out that you aren’t practicing consistently, if at all, because of one of these feelings you have about practicing; feelings you may not have known existed.  If you can get control of these feelings and even change them around to more positive associations, you can start to practice more consistently and actually have fun doing it.  We’ll talk about those positive associations in another article.  For now, play with these energies and see if, just by recognizing them, you can make changes to your practicing.  Best of luck.  You got this!

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