Daily strokes of effort

I play the flute. I have since I was 10 years old. Classically trained straight through college. I still have memories of practicing for hours. I loved it and had time for it back then so it was welcomed.

But as life does, time begins a cycle of ebb and flow, and I began to find it difficult to “make the time” to play. It had always been one of my main releases. One of my main go-tos in order to decompress and get lost in another world. Without those types of venues the weight of the every day world can be daunting.

I have always assumed that I needed the same amount of time to play as I did when I was 18 years old. I was wrong. It wasn’t until a wonderful vocal music teacher said to me, “It is important that they touch their instrument daily. 15 minutes. That’s so much more important than practicing for 2-hours a day.”

William James said it too: Daily strokes of effort.

We now know from neuroscience that the brain maintains its plasticity and malleability throughout our lives so we are able to create new habits whether we are 22 or 72. And, that’s what playing my flute is all about – creating a new habit. Or in my case, re-creating a habit. We as humans are drawn to things that are easy and convenient. What the music teacher and William James have in common is the reminder to make it easy. To quote, Shawn Achor, I needed to “put the desired behavior on the path of least resistance.” I needed to lower the energy needed to start playing my flute so that I would start playing my flute.

In this spirit, I now have a flute stand. My flute and music now have a place of honor by a window and are always ready and waiting for me. I feel drawn to it every day, and am delighted in the reconnection I am making to the creation of music. As I was preparing to play yesterday it occurred to me that it is the same with any small changes in one’s daily life. Set the intention. Take a baby step forward. If thinking about it is all that can happen today, okay. Tomorrow go one step further. After a while it becomes a purposeful, intentional practice.

For more information on Shawn Achor’s research related to positive psychology check out his book: The Happiness Advantage.

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