Practicing on Low Motivation

Some days.

I had one this past Monday. All the little things and a couple big things went wrong, and it was a struggle just to get through the day. I did not want to practice the trumpet, but I pulled the horn out, made a little progress, and felt a little better. It was the lone bright spot on a dreary day.

We all have to deal with bad days and low motivation. Here are some ideas that help me!

For me, listening to inspiring musicians and reading non-fiction books/blogs on a daily basis keep me motivated, and I make sure to do one or the other every day, no matter how busy I am. I actually keep a Google doc called “Inspiration Portfolio” where I list the stuff that gets me fired up, and that’s where I go when I’m not feeling productive.

A fair question: does this “prevention” idea work every time? No. But it works most of the time, and that’s the best we can expect.

As Zig Ziglar used to say, motivation is temporary, but so are bathing and eating. That’s why we recommend all three daily!

Now, don’t get me wrong: our overall standards need to be high if we want to realize our potential. But day to day, in the moment, we have to balance our high standards with the reality that sometimes, doing our best work is impossible.

Think about a musician who’s the mother of a 6-week old infant, for example. She got four hours of sleep last night. She’s still going to practice today, but if she expects to sound her absolute best, she’s setting herself up for disappointment.

Some days we sound our best, and some days we sound our worst. We have to live with both.

Forget the technical exercises; today is all about beautiful melodies, jazz standards (with play-along tracks), Concone vocalises, and my favorite solo literature. A practice routine is important, don’t get me wrong, but let’s not get married to it.

Not only do these tactics help get my head in a better place and help me refocus, they keep me practicing on days when I otherwise might leave the trumpet in its case.

What do you do, fellow humans? I’m going to have another day like Monday at some point, and I’d love to add a new trick to the bag.