But hang on a minute. Aren’t successful people positive thinkers? Weren’t we told that self fulfilling prophecies determined our outcomes? Well it turns out that a sign of a successful person is someone who is usually quietly expecting to fail. They don’t want to fail of course and its certainly not their plan to fail but it’s more about preparing for the worst.
The ‘What if something goes wrong’ plan.
Would you prefer a pilot who is prepared for the worst or a pilot who optimistically expects nothing to go wrong? Those most likely to survive a disaster are those who prepare. When we expect failure we are not surprised by it or unprepared for it. We’re able to respond quickly and decisively to minimise the negative effects of any failures along the way. In terms of learning guitar this means that we are not going to let a failure permanently derail our plan to succeed on guitar. I have found from years of teaching guitar that the students who are most likely to quit are those students who did not prepare for setbacks.
“I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.” – Benjamin Disraeli
I would tell students to be positive and optimistic about their ability to learn to play guitar and to achieve their goals but, I also told them to expect and prepare for those in inevitable times when things did not go according to plan. To help students I would ask a question like “What will you do say, after 6 months when you feel frustrated due to perhaps perceived slow progress and want to quit?” Many students will respond by saying they won’t want to quit but I reply with “but what if you do?” I persist with the question until I get an answer because the fact is almost every student will want to quit in their first year for some reason. If the student has a plan their chances of success rise dramatically. Do you have a plan?
Prevent your future self from sabotaging your big dreams
In one study on human behaviour they found that most people are over optimistic about their future selves. For example people will often say to themselves “I will be better in the future so as to be healthier” believing that today will be their last day of junk food consumption. They somehow believe that in the future their temptations and cravings will be better managed. If these same people took a different approach and realised their future self was not to be trusted they could prepare now by taking certain measures now. The same applies to guitar. Assume the worst. Prepare now in advance to avoid becoming a victim of your future self. Your future self is not to be trusted.
3 great ways to improve your chances of success
- Write yourself a letter right now lecturing your future self on all the reasons why you have chosen to learn to play guitar. Make these reasons deeply emotional. Perhaps you made a promise to yourself that this time you would follow through. Perhaps there is a song you really want to be able to play because it reminds you of a special time in your life. Perhaps you want to be a songwriter and the guitar is your chosen instrument. Perhaps you have a dream to be a successful performer. Whatever the reasons the more emotional the better. Make sure your letter to your future self go straight to the heart.
- Set up a reward system. Rather than treating yourself for no good reason set up a system where guitar practice is required to earn the rewards. This is very powerful and although you can cheat yourself I have found that the system seems to work.
- Find a friend or group of people who play guitar. Being part of a social group who are also Learning to play guitar increases your chances of sticking with it.
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