How do we stay productive during the months when it seems like practicing bagpipes is one of the last things we want to do each day?
Many things in life demand our time and attention. At times, it will seem like bagpiping is at the back of a crowd, jumping and waving its arms to get noticed.
Humans have an incredible knack for avoiding discomfort. Our first reaction is to find all kinds of reasons to run away when faced with things we view as unpleasant. Generally, we’ll view music practice, kind of like going to the gym, something that is necessary and good for us but perceived as too hard, occasionally unpleasant, tedious, dull, etc. So our first response is to get away, find another thing that will occupy our time. “Wait, let me check Facebook.” “Oh, the laundry needs to be done.” “Hey, I should do some yardwork.” It’s almost too easy to become distracted. It’s normal. Many times, this instinct to run from discomfort will catch us unawares. We don’t even know we’re doing it or why. Next thing you know, you haven’t practiced and the idea of starting up again looms even larger and more unpleasant than it did before. And the cycle continues.
I taught a class here at Dojo University last year where I talked about ways to “trick” your brain into doing the things you might not want to do. I covered many things that I’ve already written about here at Pipehacker.com. The focus was on ways to get us playing pipes and overcoming that instinct to avoid the uncomfortable.
Practicing Highland bagpipes brings a lot to the table. There is a list of things to think about and remember, especially if you’re new to the instrument. The following technique can help you overcome that aversion to the uncomfortable task of bagpipe practice (or anything unpleasant for that matter) and become more productive. Stick to the pattern each time you feel overwhelmed by any bagpiping task and before long you’ll wonder why you ever thought of your practice as an unpleasant chore.
1. Set your three most important piping tasks, goals or objectives. Never mind anything else for now.
2. Pick one of the three most important tasks.
3. Take a moment and think about your objective and embrace the discomfort you feel. Think about the work needed. Take notice of your immediate aversion to the discomfort that brings. Really explore it. There’s no risk involved. It’s really just thoughts in your head. Explore your aversion, discomfort, anxiety until you realize it is no big deal.
4. Create a statement that gives you a reason to achieve your objective. “I intend to complete this task because ________________.” Fill in the blank. (Sometimes, creating this statement alone can target your areas of discomfort.)
5. Clear out a specific time and place to work on your task or objective. Start small and spend a little time or a lot, but don’t be afraid to take breaks or break up your work into chunks over time.
Hacking your mental processes takes some time. It might not feel natural at first. The objective is to keep you moving and progressing toward your goals and to overcome your own self-imposed barriers. Success breeds confidence. Achieving even small objectives will help keep you motivated and feeling good about continuing your efforts.