Choose a reward for for yourself when you practice and put it in play. My reward: every day I practice, I’ll mark it on my calendar. It feels really rewarding for me when I see a long streak of practice. Tell us what you choose to do for your own challenge in the comments!
Why is reward the first step to better habits? First, let’s lay some groundwork by looking at the structure of habits. Habits have three basic components:
- The cue or trigger
- The action
- The reward
Looks familiar, right? The tricky thing is, many bad habits have immediate rewards built into them. Eating ice cream instead of salad, skipping your workout for Netflix, or putting off practicing in favor of more time scrolling through Facebook are all things that satisfy your pleasure centers in the moment, even if they don’t help you in the long term. It’s easy to see why these things can seem so appealing, especially when you’re low on willpower.
But the same structure that makes it hard to resist bad long-term habits can also work in your favor if you hack the system. Here’s the trick: when you employ a good long-term habit, associate a short-term reward with it.
When you go to the gym, treat yourself to 30 minutes reading a good novel afterwards. When you clean your house, turn on your favorite music and throw yourself a private dance party (I can’t be the only one that does this… right?) And when you practice your instrument, the same principle applies: find something that feels rewarding in the moment to help you make positive associations with the good habit.
My students often come to lessons frustrated that they “aren’t making any progress.” Here’s the thing: if you’re practicing and doing it well, I can assure you that you’re making progress. But I know how hard it can be to see it for yourself! That’s why rewarding yourself for tiny milestones, like playing for a certain amount of time, is so important.
What reward will you build into your daily practice routine?