Sometimes It Pays To Stop Smelling The Roses
How a simple two-minute exercise imagining future challenges dramatically increases guitar student success–and how it can dramatically improve outcomes in any endeavor.
Resistance Is An Inevitable Part Of Any Worthwhile Endeavor
I learned the concept of “Resistance” from reading The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. He describes it as a universal force which sustains inertia and entropy and which opposes creative activity and growth though: rationalizing, fear and anxiety, distractions, inner criticism, etc.
It turns out that research shows that people who expect to meet resistance and challenges in pursuing their goals are actually significantly more likely to reach their goals than people who expect their initial motivation to stay strong. I personally have found embracing the concept that there will always be inner and outer obstacles in the way of my best self to be really empowering–and this concept is really powerful for helping guitar students be successful, too.
Just as vaccines prevent measles or whooping cough by exposing patients to just a little bit of the disease, similarly, one of the best ways to inoculate yourself against “the resistance” is to imagine it beforehand. In fact, I’ve found that doing a two-minute visualization of the guitar journey on the first day of a new guitar class is very helpful to student success.
You can use this exercise for guitar–or for any other goal! Here’s how I do it:
1. Identify your desire. I start the class by asking each student to describe why they want to play guitar. I hear beautiful and inspiring reasons like: “I love music”, “My dad played and I always wanted to”, “I want to be able to play for my kids”, “I want to write a song someday”, “I want to be able to jam with other people,” and of course “I wanna rock!”
2. Affirm that you have a plan that works. Then I affirm to the students that they are in the right place at the right time. This class, this curriculum, this teacher, and these classmates constitute a clear and 100% effective pathway.
3. Accept and visualize future challenges, especially internal resistance. Then I remind them that at this moment they are full of excitement and faith and motivation–but that if they want to succeed they must mentally prepare for an inevitable moment when they won’t feel connected to their dream and motivation.
When that moment arrives, they’ll be on the sidewalk in front of the guitar school, in the driving rain. They won’t have an umbrella and water will be running down their nose. They will be 10 minutes late for class. It will have been a tough day–in fact, they got yelled at during work. They will want to go home and curl up in a little ball. They won’t even remember why they started playing guitar–but they will remember that the C major to G major chord change is hard. In that moment the thought will cross their mind: “Hey, I don’t have to go into class. I could turn around and go home right now.“
That moment will look different for different people. It might be falling in love with someone who lives in California, or getting busy at work, or realizing that your favorite guitar player has practiced for 10,000 more hours than you have. It might be one big moment or a series of smaller moments.
But it will come!
4. Visualize overcoming those challenges. Finally, I ask my students to mentally prepare for that moment, so that they will recognize it when it comes–and I ask them to use their current fired up dream and motivation to rehearse what they will do in that moment.
They will wipe the rain out of their eyes. They will walk into the NYC Guitar School building. They will come into class 10 minutes late. And they will pick up their guitar and start playing.
The truth is, when you really become a successful guitar player is in that future moment when you play when you don’t feel like it. Because you’re a guitar player! And that’s what guitar players do–they play guitar!
I challenge you TODAY to apply this four-part exercise to guitar or to any other area of your life, to help inoculate yourself against the inevitable challenges so that you can hold on tight to your dream:
- Identify and articulate your desire.
- Affirm that you have a plan that works.
- Accept and visualize future challenges, especially internal resistance.
- Visualize overcoming those challenges.
On To Greatness,
Founder, NYC Guitar School
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