Success on guitar through effective decisions

The decisions we make ultimately lead us to success or failure. Brain researcher Jonah Lehrer explains in much detail how our brains actually work in the decision making process in his book ‘How we decide’. Applying his findings to guitar can be beneficial. My own interpretation goes like this.

When people decide to learn guitar it is usually the result of a dopamine rush. Dopamine makes us feel good and often motivates us to take action. The problem is it won’t keep you motivated for very long. What happens is we soon get swamped with new thoughts and ideas and the novelty of learning guitar begins to wane. Our desire to play guitar never actually disappears. Even if the initial excitement has gone because it is usually connected to a deep rooted emotion lurking in the background until suddenly you hear a great song, go to concert or even see a friend playing guitar. Suddenly the dopamine comes rushing back in and you are kicking yourself for not sticking with your guitar lessons.

The trick is to separate the learning of guitar from the joy of playing. Think of it like fitness. Working out is hard work but the pleasure comes as a result of the hard work. If you take up guitar with the idea of enjoying the practice you may initially be disappointed. But if you simply timetable your practice and get on with it knowing that long term it will pay off. The actual enjoyment of practice begins to creep up on you and before you know it you can’t wait to practice each day. This does take time but to get back to Lehrer’s research what he points out is that we make many decisions emotionally or using the automated brain which is actually very helpful in some situations but not all. What we often need to do is think logically and be thoughtful about our decisions and how they effect us long term. Learning guitar is a long term decision.


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