We’ve all had the experience of trying to fast track our guitar playing only to be met with a plethora of choices that leaves us asking, “Where do I go from here?” The choice of books, videos and guitar forums can quickly get overwhelming. Add to that the sheer number of areas that need to be studied, from ear training to technique, and even experienced players can be left with an uneasy feeling of poor practice routine.
To get your practice on track and start making progress that you’re pleased with, you must set goals and work towards achieving them. Most people understand the logic of this but fail to put it into practice. This lack of success is due to not realizing the one discipline that turns goals from words on paper into reality.
“Focus” – The Missing Ingredient
Nothing important has ever been achieved without focus. Even in writing this article, I don’t leave it to chance and just write when I feel like it. I block out a couple hours of my day and focus on accomplishing it. Once you truly see that what’s been manifesting in your life is a direct result of what you’ve been focusing on, you’ll be much more determined to spend your efforts in the right areas.
When you set goals to focus on, you must accept the inevitable fact that there will be things taking a second seat. I recommend a rotating set of short term goals so that no skill lags too far behind but for the immediate future not all skills will be advancing at the same rate. In music, it’s seldom that all abilities develop at the same rate with none needing extra attention at times. This can be likened to bodybuilding. When a weightlifter wants to grow his arms, he focuses on what it takes to do that while the other body parts get a secondary focus. Once his goal is achieved, he moves to another lagging body part and brings it up.
The Focus Checklist
Once your goals are actionable and your routine is ready, it’s time to begin. Do so with an unwavering focus and you will quickly enter a new realm of playing. Here are a few things to remember that will greatly enhance your focus.
- Identify Bad Habits – Did you know that the majority of our decisions, actions and beliefs are habitual patterns that our subconscious handles for us? Some experts estimate that up to 90% of our day to day activities are ingrained patterns that we don’t consciously think of. Scary to hear that we’re maybe not as in control as we think but what an opportunity! Are you poor at setting goals, an habitual procrastinator or waste too much time with emails and social media? Work at developing new habits that serve your goals.
- Develop Your Strengths – This is important. What are you naturally good at? Develop that. It’s what you’ll be known for. Your weaknesses still need to be worked on but they’ll always be just that, weaknesses. They will not give you the competitive edge that you need.
- Books You Read and Company You Keep – Surround yourself with the learning tools and proper friends that you need to succeed. This will keep you highly motivated and learning at an accelerated rate.
- Exercise and Get Enough Sleep – This is often overlooked by night loving musicians but exercising and getting enough sleep both contribute to more energy, less stress and increased learning.
- Create Balance in Your Playing and in Your Life – It’s hard to be productive when stress, relationships and time restraints are constantly in the way. Work at work and play at play. Talk to the people in your life and make time for them. This balance will make you more prolific in the long run.
- Stay Persistent and Go For What You Want – People have a way of getting inspired but then quickly changing their goal when the initial inspiration wears off and the goal seems too far away. You must remain open to different opportunities that come up on the way to achieving your goal, but your persistence towards that goal must never waver.
This is much more of a self-help post than I usually write but more and more I’m understanding the role of focus in my own life. This is valuable information that can drastically change your playing and perhaps your life if implemented and I hope that it motivates and inspires you to do just that. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next time with another shreddin’ lesson.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
– Bruce Lee