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Develop the Practice Habit—Part 2
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Develop the Practice Habit—Part 2

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Let’s say you had a question about, well, anything. These days, all of us will automatically move to our phones or keyboards and consult Google for the information. We just do it. We never think, “Oh, I don’t feel like typing in a query to Google, I’ll do it tomorrow.” But that is the way pipers will treat sitting down to learn a new tune, or improving their technique.

Why don’t you immediately and automatically flip on the metronome, grab your practice chanter and get to work?

The advice in Part 1 is great overall advice, but to really ingrain practicing bagpipes as a habit, we need to drill down into the deeper aspects of our behavior.

According to Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg, if you wish to create a lifelong habit, the focus should be on training your brain to succeed at small adjustments, then gaining confidence from that to propel you forward. To do that, we should be aiming for automaticity, designing behavior changes that are easy to do and slipped seamlessly into existing, automatic routines.

Think about all the automatic things you do in any given day or week, things you do every day without much thought. Brushing your teeth, making coffee, taking a shower or going to the bathroom even. Think of the more pleasurable things you do automatically: checking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram; plugging a search into Google; watching videos; reading a news article. These things never seem to be subject to the procrastination or series of excuses we will typically use when faced with something that is uncomfortable or difficult.

To help people create new behaviors and make them as automatic and routine as turning to Google to search the internet, Dr. Fogg created the Fogg Method, which is a behavioral model built on psychological theory and behavioral science. The method is comprised of three steps:

    1. Identify your specific desired outcome.
    2. Identify “easy-win” behaviors. Fogg calls these “tiny habits” and they are simple acts that serve as a first step toward your desired outcome.
    3. Find a trigger, something you already do as a habit, and graft the new tiny habit onto it.

One example Fogg uses for someone who wishes to lose weight or improve their diet is, that person will place an apple on the kitchen counter each time they prepare the coffeemaker. In an interview, his comment was “Notice I didn’t say eat the apple, let’s not get crazy!”

The object is to celebrate small victories when you automatically act toward your goal before taking the next step or action. In Fogg’s Tiny Habits program (which is free!), he sends members advice and recipes for commonly held goals related to lifestyle changes, productivity, and the like. His recipes take the form: “After I finish brushing my teeth, I will floss one tooth,” or “After using the bathroom, I will do one push up.”

I think the observant piper here will see where this is going. Much of this is designed to create small victories to motivate yourself toward larger goals. The success is key. Fogg instructs participants to celebrate and pat themselves on the back with an overt “Yay!” or “Victory!” when each new behavior is added. The idea is to reprogram yourself as someone who succeeds.

Fogg’s Tiny Habits program is offered periodically and might be worth the effort for pipers who have trouble incorporating regular practice into their lives. More than 28,000 people have completed Fogg’s five-day program and report dramatic changes. One women set a goal to pick up one piece of garbage from her car each time she parked it in her garage. She soon found she was straightening up and cleaning her house too.

The applications and concepts as they relate to bagpipe practice are obvious. These ideas take the point “Keep the instrument handy” from Part 1 one step further to create a “ripple effect” for real change. If every time you checked Facebook or Twitter and put your music and practice chanter next to you, you will have accomplished the first step toward ingraining the habit of practice per Fogg’s method.

How about waiting for laundry to be finished, or putting away dishes? Take out your music and your practice chanter and place it on the counter, table, bed, or wherever you do these things. Like to procrastinate by binge-watching TV shows? Put that chanter and music right next to your laptop when you do this. One step further: If, each time you did these things, you played one line of that new tune once, you will be well on your way toward making bagpipe practice automatic.

Take Action

Practice Techniques With Callum Beaumont
Breaking Ingrained Habits With Donald Lindsay

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Vin Janoski Vin is a long-time piper based on the east coast of the USA. He has been on the Executive Committee of the EUSPBA and been the editor of the acclaimed Voice magazine. Recently, he has played in the Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band, and the Grade 1 Stuart Highlanders pipe band. He currently produces the websites Pipehacker.com and WhiskyTunes.com.... And, needless to say, he spends way too much time than is allowed for any one person playing, writing about, and thinking about bagpiping.

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