Habits, Practice, Motivation

Today I wanted to write about practice and the habit of practice.

Through the years I have found the best way to alter my behavior is by creating the habit.

Man is a creature of habit and I certainly know that is true with me.  Just ask my wife.

Every morning through the week it’s the same routine almost to the point of obsession.  I admit sometimes it’s to the point of superstition.    If I don’t perform my morning tasks and functions in same way each day I fear something bad may happen that day.

I realize how irrational that is but is doesn’t affect me to where I cannot keep going if something isn’t right or out of order.  It just gets me a little irritated.

Although I think a lot of that came from when my job was very stressful and I was just looking for anything to grasp onto that would help me coup with all the unpleasantness of the day.   During the weekends or on holidays it all goes away.

I can be even worse with sports.   Do you know how many games the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins have lost because I didn’t sit in the proper chair or in the right position?

Developing the right habits has helped me improve my life.  Eating better was just a matter of dropping the habit of snacking on bad foods between meals and replacing it with other activities.

After 22 years of the smoking habit I quit cold turkey.  The problem was I substituted that habit with eating and put on some weight.  So I had to change that habit again by developing another habit.

When I decided to start playing drums again I knew the most important habit I had to develop was my practice habit.

I made a commitment to practice at least 5 days a week even if it was only 20 or 30 minutes.  I just wanted to get the habit rolling and small steps always seems to be the best way.

I forced myself to do it each day and within a short amount of time it became a habit.

The fact that I was getting ready to play with other musicians for the first time in 25 years also gave me the additional motivation required to develop a habit.  I wanted to be my best, as good as I could be after such a long layoff.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of my friends and respected players.

Motivation is a key factor in developing good habits or breaking bad habits.

Earlier I mentioned I quit smoking.  By the way it will be 20 years since I quit on December 30, 1995.  For years people told me to quit, I half heartedly tried a couple of other times but I just wasn’t motivated.  I knew the risks but in your 20’s and 30’s you still think you’re bullet proof.

In 1995 my father-in-law who was a life long smoker and had a history of heart disease passed away at the age of 67.  The same year my grandmother died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 79 which was a shock to me.  She was never a smoker but the reality of heart disease hit home.

It was also the first time in my life I started honestly looking at retirement funds and calculating how much savings I could have when I was 60, 70 or 80 if I started now.

I thought of my farther-in-law who had just retired a few years ago and had a nice pension and was now gone.  I said to myself I want to be around to reap the rewards of all my years of work, see my children grow up and see my grandchildren.  Now I was motivated.  I haven’t smoked since the day I quit.

Then I put on the weight.

My diet motivation came from my family.  My kids called me “Pudge” and my wife said to me “If I liked fat men I would not have married you.”  Again I was motivated.

My healthy eating habits motivation came from my cardiologist.  It came to me when he said to me you have 95% blockage on the left side of your heart and 75% to 80% blocked on the right side.

So motivating myself to practice drums is very important.

At my age my main motivation is to just be the best I can be.   It comes from wanting to record myself, listen to the play back and honestly say I really like that.  And you never know what opportunities may come along and when they do the last thing I want to be is not prepared.

It also helps that I really enjoy playing and obtain a large amount of satisfaction and relaxation from playing.

Even on the days where I have to force myself to practice once I’m started the pleasures of playing comes to me.

My habit has gone from 5 days a week, 30 minutes a session to 7 days a week and at least one hour a session.  Some days its longer but most days my other responsibilities don’t allow me additional time.  But I’m working towards changing that.

When I miss a day I feel guilty.

It’s definitely a habit, a good habit.

© Otis P Smith and About the Groove, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Otis P Smith and About the Groove with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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