You might not realize it, but you function at an equilibrium in most areas of your life. We all do. That’s one reason why it’s so hard to lose weight. Our body wants to stay at our current weight, or within a small range of fluctuation.
It’s also true in our activities, such as exercise. Whether we exercise or not, we’ve all found an amount of exercise that fits into our daily schedule. Whether it’s 15 minutes, an hour, or none at all, our exercise time is built into the way we function on a daily basis. It’s found an equilibrium.
This points to one reason why it’s so hard to effect real change in our lives. Do you want to get in shape and be healthier? Simple, right? Exercise more.
But as we all know, it’s not so simple. Generally speaking, we’re so used to functioning within a small fluctuation that our attempts to, say, get up an hour earlier for an early morning workout usually fizzle out pretty soon.
Here’s the good news: If you want to start effective and lasting change, you simply need to unbalance your equilibrium a little. Disturb the status quo.
So if you want to get healthy, just start by increasing the amount of time you exercise by 10 minutes per day. If you don’t work out at all now, those 10 minutes will start working their magic very soon. Your metabolism will increase, so you’ll automatically burn more calories during the day when you eat. Your heart rate will go up during the exercise and you’ll begin enjoying that feeling. And we all know what happens when we enjoy a feeling, don’t we? We do more of it. Soon, those 10 minutes will sometimes turn into 15, 30, or even 60 minutes on days when we have the time. And speaking for myself, I don’t crave junk food after exercising, gravitating instead to fruits with high water content. A win-win situation. If you already work out, adding 10 minutes to your workout every day will start creating a new equilibrium that your body will eventually gravitate to all on its own. You’ll also get used to making room in your schedule for it and reap all the same benefits I’ve outlined, over and above what you’re getting now.
It’s exactly the same with piano. While practice schedules and such are great, many times we start out strong and soon fizzle out, just like with exercise. We eagerly practice our new 2-hour routine for a week or so, and then skip a day when something unexpected comes up. We want to get to it the next day, but sometimes it’s hard to recapture our initial energy and enthusiasm. So we look back a month later and feel guilty and discouraged that we didn’t have the “self-discipline” to accomplish our goals.
The key to playing more piano is the same as with exercise: you need to change your musical equilibrium.
If you practice for 2 (2!) minutes every morning before you go to work or school, you will eventually practice as much as you want to. It doesn’t seem like much, does it? You’re probably thinking that 2 minutes won’t do anything. But they will, I promise.
Those 2 daily minutes will remind you how much you love music. They’ll be a musical thread that connects each time you sit down at the piano, and you’ll begin to cherish those 2 minutes, even (or especially) on busy days. You’ll also feel like you don’t want to stop and go to work. This is a good feeling, since it increases the odds that you’ll get to the piano later on, when you return home in the evening. Even if it’s for 5 minutes again, that now adds up to 7 minutes. (A lot better than nothing at all, right?)
A young piano student of mine once complained that she was so busy with homework and sports that she couldn’t practice piano at all. I gave her the assignment of only practicing for 5 minutes, every day. A week later, she came to her lesson and announced that she had failed. She told me she couldn’t do it. She never practiced for the 5 assigned minutes; it always turned into 15 or 30!
Go ahead, unbalance your musical equilibrium. It will make all the difference for you!
Try these 10 ways to improve your piano improv skills. They’ll help music come alive for you in a whole new way!
Take your left hand playing to a new level with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You’ll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration