Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are You Playing, Practicing or Both?

I play the guitar. I also practice the guitar. There’s a difference. If you sound really good when you sit down to go through your material, then you’re not practicing, you’re playing. Practicing is working on new pieces that pose a challenge to you, and it’s very likely it won’t sound good at all—at first.

I would like to become a great guitar player, but that requires serious dedication, and with an already busy life, there just isn’t enough time. For me, balancing work, family, social and home responsibilities (many are self-imposed demands, but time demands all the same) —and now music, means I don’t have a lot of extra time. 

It’s not easy to become great. But, I’ve discovered that I can be “OK.”  I’ve discovered that even a little practice results in steady progress. Small steps, small efforts, and a modest time commitment have resulted in OK, and it hasn’t taken that long. I can see, and hear steady (even if slower than I wish) progress.

So why are we talking about playing—and practicing the guitar? Because it’s like wellness, and weight loss, and developing healthier lifestyle choices. We start out with modest, yet meaningful choices, which with a little practice, result in sustainable healthy habits.

We know habits can be made—and broken.  We all get used to doing something a certain way, and before we realize it, that’s the way we do it without even thinking about the “doing” of it.  If we begin to make a few modest changes, those comfortable, automatic patterns (habits) begin to change as well. When we become mindful of the choices we make, the changes follow. We learn new notes, new chords, new progressions.

We all have goals. We set goals to regulate our spending, our weight, our eating, our alcohol and cigarette use, our physical activity levels. And most of us, as soon as we set a goal, start readjusting that goal.

Big goals, and big problems are usually not solved with big solutions, but with a series of small solutions and small steps. Long-term wellness goals too, will be achieved through short-term decisions and actions. 

The guitar is not an easy instrument to learn to play, but it doesn’t have to be hard either. This is where, as a metaphor, it comes back to wellness and wellness goals. You can’t anticipate every step, but you can take the first step. That’s the beginning. You know where you want to go. That’s the ending. It’s the middle that takes the most practice.

So, how’s your performance going?

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