Don't rely on motivation. Don't rely on discipline. Don't rely on willpower. Create a habit. Tie a knot in the devil's tail.
Instead of a booze fueled, cocaine laced, cigarette puffing, acid dropping daily routine lets look at something slightly more practical for those of us with a day job that isn't being an eccentric writer.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Creating habits is the number one method for building a system to consistently hit the goals (the results) you want to achieve. The system is the process that leads to those results. Commit to it, start small, and build it up – it's how you become your ideal self.
Below are my main three takeaways from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I've framed it in the context of building a guitar practice habit, but it can be used to create a system (music related or otherwise) for anything you want to accomplish in life.
1. Change your identity.
True behavior change is true identity change. The goal is not to learn an instrument, it's to become a musician. When you think of yourself as a musician (if you make music at any level you are a musician) everything else starts to fall in place. The mindset shift is empowering. You begin to think think things like "what would a musician do?" and the answer is they'd hit the woodshed and work on improving their craft.
2. Make it easy.
Your guitar is a piece of art. Display it somewhere it's easy to pickup and play. Remove the friction. Is it plugged in, ready to rip?
The two minute mindset. We all have days where we really, really don't want to practice, but tell yourself to just pick up the damn thing for two minutes. It's like kick starting a motorcycle. You have to get past that initial friction. Once you're ripping it's hard to stop.
Intention: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]. Make the commitment so small that it’s hard to fail and slowly increase it over time as you build momentum. The effort compounds: “If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done.”
Habit stacking: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]. After I will celebrate the completion of [NEW HABIT] by [DOING X]. Behaviors stick with reinforcement. The celebration part is about the small things – say "fuck yeah", pat yourself on the back, do a little dance, stretch, etc. Find what works for you.
I hope you pick up a few tricks. It's worth the read.
Here's a great alternative version of Taj singing and playing harp with the Tedeschi Trucks Band backing in the green room. Check out the grins from the band. From the comments: "When Taj Mahal is in the room, EVERYONE ELSE is playing back up."