DREAM – If you don’t know what you want to obtain, you’ll never obtain it. I ask people what they want to learn, accomplish, try, do, and become on a daily basis. The answers are interesting. Many people honestly haven’t taken the time to dream and think about what they want out of life. Dream a little. Write down everything you would like to learn over the next year. What new musical instruments would you like to learn? What new songs would you like to learn? Where would you like to go? Who would you like to meet? What new hobbies will you pursue? How much money would you like to earn? Save? Invest? Spend? How would you like to enrich your own life and the life of those with whom you become acquainted? Write it all down. Decide what you need and want out of life. There’s nothing wrong with that. Take a little time each day to dream. But always write your dreams down and look at them on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. If you don’t write them down and continually review and perfect them, they remain wishes. You cannot help your dreams become a reality unless you write them down and review them often.
PLAN AND PREPARE – Dreaming is only the first step. Once you decide what you need and want out of life, you must create a plan or a map that will take you to your desired destination. Without a plan or a road map, people often end up stranded on the side of life. Take your list of dreams and begin creating a road map that will take you in the right direction. Choose 5 – 10 of the dreams you’d most like to accomplish over the course of the next year and break the dream down into smaller manageable parts. Figure out what individual steps you need to take (I like to refer to them as macro and micro goals) in order to accomplish your dream. Then give yourself a timeline. Plot out when you will accomplish each of the macro and micro goals that will help to make your dream a reality. If you don’t give yourself a deadline, you’ll never do it. You’ll always wait until tomorrow. There are no tomorrows. They all become today.
GO TO WORK – It can be difficult. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to follow through with your plan and turn your dreams into realities. Understand up front that it will require some effort on your part. Nothing worthwhile comes easily or freely. Often a price has to be paid. Many times, you will receive back tenfold what you paid in terms of your efforts, sacrifice, diligence, and hard work. Don’t be afraid to work. Have fun and get things done.
REAL MOTIVATION – The two main types of motivation are extrinsic motivation (relying on others or objects, money, rewards, incentives, etc. to motivate you) and intrinsic motivation (relying on yourself to be motivated). Real motivation is intrinsic motivation. The two really go hand in hand. I always reward myself after I’ve accomplished a new goal, written a new book, finished a new CD or made progress in my personal lifestyle goals (usually my rewards consist of purchasing large quantities of books from thrift stores and second hand shops, as I have a weakness for books on history, language, music, business, and self improvement). If you need to give yourself an incentive (and we all do), go ahead. Reward yourself. You deserve it and you’ve earned it. It will motivate you to dream a little more often and plan and prepare for your next goal. Learn to be a self-starter and motivate yourself because you want to. Don’t let others make your decisions for you. You can do so much for so many people. Dream a little more often. Plan and prepare for what you want and deserve out of life and then go to work. You’ll be surprised how good it makes you feel and what you are able to accomplish. There are no limits and nothing is impossible. Dream and succeed. It may sound simple, but it’s true. You can do anything you put your mind to. Take time today, right now, to create a list of dreams you want to turn into realities. It doesn’t take very much time. Little by little you can accomplish so much. Go to work and get it done. Live your dreams!
Now, I am fascinated with words. It may sound weird, but I read dictionaries like hopeless romantics read novels. I enjoy learning as much as I can about languages, meanings, derivatives, etc. It completely fascinates me.
I thought I’d share a favorite word origin and relate it to piano teaching (and piano practicing).
The word ‘ability’ comes from the Latin noun ‘habilitas’. The adjective is ‘habilis’, or ‘habile’, which is from the verb ‘habere’ meaning ‘habit’. The original meaning is “to have, to hold”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (we have to be careful when we talk about which Webster dictionary it is – there are a few and each is different) defines a habit as:
“1: DRESS, GARB 2: BEARING, CONDUCT 3: PHYSIQUE 4: mental makeup 5: a usual manner of behavior : CUSTOM: 6 : a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition 7 : ADDICTION 8 : mode of growth or occurrence (trees with a spreading)”
The same dictionary describes ability as:
“the quality of being able : POWER, SKILL”, it also is used as a suffix to indicate a “capacity, fitness, or tendency to act or be acted on in a (specified) way (i.e. flammability).
I find it interesting that the words habit and ability, have the same origin. Their roots connect the two together so that they are, in a sense, inseparably connected. The one does not exist without the other. They are two halves which make a whole. The fascinating aspect of it all is how much the two work together in real life.
Our ability to do anything has a direct correlation with our habits. We may have good habits, and we may have bad habits. Our ability or inability to do anything in life depends on the habits we have formed. These habits become customs because of our frequent repetition. They can become an addiction, but I would love to be addicted to good habits over bad habits any day, so addiction, in this case, does not necessarily denote anything negative.
There is a reason why students must practice daily and form the habit of practicing. Their ability to improve will never happen until they make it a conscious commitment.
People have often talked about how it takes at least 21 days to form a habit. In reality, it is a myth. It takes as long as it needs to take for the individual, because each of us progresses at different levels. The 21 days is a good start, however, because it allows the person to be consistent for three straight weeks, hopefully, completely focused on what they hope to accomplish and being 100% dedicated to doing what it takes.
The 21 days idea stemmed from after one of the world wars. When a soldier lost an arm, the doctors found it took up to 21 days for the individual to not automatically try to use the arm they didn’t have. It became known as the phantom arm because they thought they still had the use of both arms.
We can say that it generally will take 21 days to form a habit, but sadly, the same can be said about breaking bad habits. It takes time to change the way we’ve been doing everything. We basically need to reprogram our brains which, again, takes time and won’t happen overnight. We need to be careful in how we teach and what we teach. Students can learn bad habits just as easily as they can learn good habits. First and foremost, students must learn how to practice daily. It must become second nature.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, suggests that 10,000 hours is the designated time to become masters or professionals. Everything from Olympic Gold Medalists, to concert pianists, to professional artists, etc. The list in limitless, but the timetable is the same. 10,000 hours must be spent doing something before they arrive at the level where they become true professionals.
I took the liberty to calculate the equivalents of what that means to music students. Look at the lists below:
Practicing 30 Minutes Per Day – how long it will take to reach 10,000 hours
30 Minutes per day multiplied by 365 days per year = 182.5 hours
182.5 hours multiplied by 10 years = 1,825 hours
182.5 hours multiplied by 20 years = 3,650 hours
182.5 hours multiplied by 40 years = 7,300 hours
182.5 hours multiplied by 60 years = 10,950 hours
Practicing 1 Hour Per Day – how long it will take to reach 10,000 hours
1 hour per day multiplied by 365 days per year = 365 hours
365 hours multiplied by 10 years = 3,650 hours
365 hours multiplied by 20 years = 7,300 hours
365 hours multiplied by 40 years = 14,600 hours
365 hours multiplied by 60 years = 21,900 hours
Practicing 2 Hour Per Day – how long it will take to reach 10,000 hours
2 hours per day multiplied by 365 days per year = 730 hours
730 hours multiplied by 10 years = 7,300 hours
730 hours multiplied by 20 years = 14,600 hours
730 hours multiplied by 40 years = 29,200 hours
730 hours multiplied by 60 years = 43,800 hours
The numbers don’t lie. It’s amazing when you think about it. I tell students if they’ve been playing the piano for less than 2 years they can practice for 30 minutes per day. Once they hit the two year mark, and possibly sooner, I encourage them to up their practicing time to 45 minutes – 1 hour. From there we continue to up their practice time (and it can be difficult with scheduling, but it doesn’t need to be one lump sum). They can break the hour into two half hour time slots. Break down two hours into two one hour time slots. When students see this chart, they get an idea into what it takes to really improve in anything they do.
Their ability in anything they choose to do, will only increase and improve as they dedicate more of their time to doing it. If they learn to love it, it won’t be very difficult getting them to spend more time doing it. They’ll do it because they love to and want to.