We all have dreams and goals in life. In the back of our minds there is always something that we don't yet have that we would like. A major problem that I see a lot of guitarists struggle with is that they never seem to achieve many of these goals. This can be anything from growth in practice to achieving career success. Each of us has their own individual wants and needs. There are many things that we would like to do in life, but how many things do we actually achieve? In my heart I am an eternal optimist and I believe we can all achieve everything we desire. However, I know that life has a way of throwing hurdles in our path that somehow tend to impede us from achieving all we want and are capable of. It is our individual responsibility in life to find ways to push ourselves to achieve all that we have ever wanted. In this article I'd like to address some strategies on how you can start achieving more of the things you desire today.
Anyone who has ever achieved anything knows that you must have a purpose (a reason) to do so. Before you can even map out a strategy to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be, you must know why you need to achieve them. When you have a reason behind why you do something, doing it and achieving success at it are nearly automatic. The typical enemies of success like procrastination, indecision, and intimidation are removed. Action replaces these inhibitors and results always follow. The ability to constantly be making progress and obtaining results over a consistent period of time usually equals success. So, how can we give ourselves purpose in our quests and use it to inspire us?
The first thing you must do is ask yourself what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. You need to really dig deep. For example, saying that "I want to be the fastest guitarist on the planet" doesn't really mean anything. It is a false purpose. Why would you want to be the fastest guitarist on earth? What benefits would it bring you and how would you feel if you had achieved this? What is it about this hypothetical feeling that makes you desire it? You must ask yourself the tough questions and keep digging deeper. Once you know exactly what you want and why you want it, you have given yourself true purpose. Only when you have found true purpose can you have something that will give you a cause for action.
Having a purpose to achieve a goal may be the foundation of success, but you need motivation to actually get through the daily obstacles and keep yourself productive. I'm not necessarily talking about the type of motivation where you get all excited to go do something for an hour. I'm talking about motivating yourself to find ways to keep on task each day. For example, in my own life, one of the strategies I use is constant reminders. By constantly reminding myself of my goals and purpose, I am forcing myself to always be thinking of ways to achieve my goals. Programming this sort of thing into your head will keep it on your mind all day. I have a big white dry erase marker board that sits in my recording studio. Since I am in the studio 7 days a week, I see this board every day, all day! On it, there are two phrases that I read and force myself to act on daily.
1. "What are you going to do today, to get to where you want to go?"
This is a phrase I constantly ask myself. Like everyone else, I have many goals and dreams in life. These range from small things like coming up with new ideas for guitar articles to big goals like traveling to exotic places. The point is that I, like every other person in the world, have a whole series of goals that I want to accomplish in each particular day, week, month, or year. I read this saying on the marker board and I ask myself what I am going to do today to achieve them. I write the ideas down on a piece of paper that never leaves my pocket. During the day I work on completing these tasks and cross them off as I complete them. You can imagine if you did this every day and forced yourself to make progress towards your goals, all the things that you could accomplish! Make it a priority to cross off these little goals every day. Watch what happens over a few months or a year. You will be amazed to find you can accomplish almost anything!
2. "Just do it!"
Just like everyone else in the world, I have my off days where I get frustrated, or am unmotivated. We all have our lazy days. We all also have days when it feels like everything is going wrong and it is the end of the world. This is why I keep this second phrase on my marker board. The Nike company slogan is awesome! Usually, when you think about doing something and you don't want to do it, you procrastinate. If the task is big and requires a lot of effort, we procrastinate even more! But, if you just kick yourself in the butt and start doing it, you will find that it isn't so bad. Not getting the work done will just lead to more anguish over the looming task. If you just do it and get it over with, you can go to bed knowing you have achieved something that will help bring you closer to where you want to go. Next time you think about procrastination, "Just do it!" It works every time.
The key to motivating yourself into action is to constantly remind yourself that you need to be acting. If you force yourself to act towards your goals, you will achieve them. This requires work ethic.
Very few people seem to know nowadays what real work ethic is. We all have become complacent by the progress of society and the instant gratification of technology. I believe it has watered down the younger generations of society and we have lost the meaning of struggle and hard work. We want everything now, but we are not willing to put forth effort to get it. The reality check is that if you want to go achieve anything, not only do you have to work hard, but also work smart! Because if you don't do it, there is someone else out there who will and who can beat you to the punch. This is especially true in the business world.
Discipline is the root of any solid work ethic. Waking up day after day and disciplining yourself to work towards a goal is a vital key to accomplishment. A successful mindset doesn't allow for excuses, complaining, or procrastination. A successful mindset requires execution. Discipline is the backbone of execution. To develop discipline, you need to force it into habit. You must push yourself to constantly be thinking about your goals and motivations. By reminding yourself constantly of what you want and forcing yourself to act on it, you are forming good discipline habits. After a while, you will get into a groove of execution where you don't even think about it because you have disciplined your mindset to execute.
Not only do you have to work hard to achieve, you must also work intelligently. If you work hard on the wrong thing, it does not matter how much effort you put in to it, it will not help you succeed at your goal. This is why having a clearly defined plan is important. By breaking your goals into accomplishable steps you can easily follow a path of small achievable steps to obtain what you seek. The other thing to take into consideration is time. Time is something you never get back. I call it "the most expensive thing in business." You only have so much time in your life to achieve things. If you waste your time following incorrect paths, it can be a major setback.
For example, if your goal is to get signed to a major record label, you need to write smash hit songs, have a great image, have a vocalist with an amazing voice for the genre you are in, run your band like a business, have the right market timing, and so much more. If you spend too much time on any one of those elements, you may be neglecting the others. The hardest part in working smart is striking a balance between all tasks efficiently so that you are not wasting time. For example, no band that spends all their time recording, has a horrible image, and has never played a live show, in theory, will get a deal. So, my point is that when setting out to achieve something, work intelligently, because time is running out!
Sometimes success in something takes absolutely ridiculous amounts of time. This is where work ethic comes into play. For example, in my own life there has been many times when I have literally worked a minimum of 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a period of a month or two straight, without a miss. Not a single day off and I am not exaggerating one bit! For an illustration of true work ethic, I remember re-launching InsaneGuitar.com in June to July of this year (2009). I would wake up at 6:30 am to shower and eat. I started working on the site at 7am. I would then go to my day job (my office is connected to my studio) and record a band in the studio from 8am until 5pm. After the band left, I ate for 15 minutes and then went into my office and worked without flinching until 11pm-11:30 pm. I would then sleep, and repeat. I did this everyday for nearly 2 months without a single day off. Now, this is an example of accomplishing a business goal, not really a guitar goal like developing solid sweep picking technique. However, this is just to illustrate an example what kind of work ethic can be necessary to complete a task. Again, like any goal, how bad do you want it and how important to you is it to get it done now? Work ethic will take you to your destination and having an iron clad work ethic is an essential component of a successful mindset.
I honestly think that most people do not succeed in achieving their goals simply because they don't want to. It is easier to be in love with the idea of something than it is to actually do the work necessary to accomplish it. For example, I don't know too many guitarists who do not want to be better at the guitar than they already are. However, when it comes to putting the time into practice, they are lazy and do not progress.
To illustrate this point, let us pretend that you want to be a fast alternate picker, but you are not very good at it. The path to getting fast, solid picking technique, is very simple. The principles are basic, yet the commitment and effort it requires makes it challenging. Many guitarists who set out to accomplish this goal will not accomplish it because it takes work ethic. It is easier to sit there and say that someday you will be an insane guitar monster than it is to put in long hours to actually do it. It is easy to noodle a few poorly executed picking licks and say to yourself that you will practice for real next time.
Many times when we attempt to achieve a goal, we know the process. For some reason, it is common for people to not follow the instructions and try to find their own way of doing it. The results are never as good as if they would have followed the instructions verbatim. So, when a path to success is laid out for you, use your work ethic skills and just do it. Don't try to reinvent the wheel or come up with your own method. Just do what works and follow it precisely. Watch what happens! Success in most things usually comes down to a few small underlying principles. Follow them. "Just do it!"
You can start achieving your guitar goals today. Just think about the progress you can be making if you were to intelligently commit yourself to achieving something daily. The results will be and are staggering. I have employed this strategy in my own life and it has produced dramatic results for me not only in guitar playing, but in business and other facets of life as well. You will find yourself amazed at how quickly you can accomplish big tasks that seem unachievable in the short term. A combination of focus, passion, persistence, commitment, and execution will make you invincible in the arena of achievement. So ask yourself now: "What are you going to do today to get to where you want to go?"
Joel Wanasek runs InsaneGuitar.com, and has written over 42 articles, 6 master classes, and had a book published.
Wanasek also plays in a touring national band, and owns a studio (doing work for labels such as Metal Blade, Sumerian, Eulogy and Red Cord).
For a free guitar eBook from Wanasek and tons of free guitar lessons from world class players, please visit: InsaneGuitar.com.
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