Confronting Boredom Head-On with REALITY
The DULL fact that much practice is important but gets BORING after a while begins to hit home.
The Philosopher Gurdjieff can help though: at the beginning of any endeavor, he asks us, can we identify our own obstacles and so prepare ourselves to confront them from the onset?
"Boredom," as an affective state, signifies frustration. And it's important to look more deeply than that, and unravel the MEANING what really peeves us. By understanding that obstacle, it' easier to find one's own motivation to reframe and overcome boredom.
For some people, "boredom" might mean, "I'm sucking, and that destroys the fantasy that I'm Eric Clapton." For others, it might take the form of a false underlying belief, "I'm never be able to get better no matter how long I try." Desire for instant gratification is another source of boredom: "I want to be good NOW, and since I'm sucking at this exercise I don't like doing it."
There are literally millions of reasons why practice might make people feel bored! Often, there will be multiple reasons at the same time. So take some time and think about it. That might hurt a bit to look at, but your knowledge of WHY you are bored is POWER. Because now, you can weigh the way you feel against reality.
If boredom springs from the desire for instant gratification, for instance, it's important to confront the reality of how hard, and how long, someone must practice before they start to "get good." Furthermore, it begs the question of examining why the exercise is too difficult: is it above one's level? Is the exercise being taken at a breakneck speed without warming up or playing it slowly first? Finally, it suggests that, instead of expecting immediate progress, to think in smaller, more concrete steps. Maybe today it's important to work on hammer-ons and pull-offs, because those are giving continual struggles during practice.
The belief that one simply cannot improve, no matter how hard one tries, is FALSE for the vast majority of people. People will have many different reasons for this, perhaps past failures at other activities, or having made many attempts that seem to go nowhere. In any case, step back and think about it for a moment: how long have you been playing? And not just how long, but how often? How have you been practicing in the past? Take a realistic appraisal of what you've been able to accomplish so far, and give yourself a little credit! And, think again of the lure of instant gratification: it's not gonna happen without work. So ask yourself the important question: what can I work on now that will help me reach the next step?
Although it can be fun to imagine, the "rockstar" fantasy often does not do any favors when practicing or playing. This is not to suggest that the SHOW of playing the part while performing live, like acting in a play or movie, isn't part of what people come to see. However, it's important to separate the act from the actor, and not fool oneself into overestimating one's skills and abilities when preparing for the act. For some people, the fantasy may serve the purpose of making up for the fact that they know, deep down, they aren't that good. Or that they aren't living the life they want to live, musically or otherwise. Here again, reality is the key to real mastery.
True story: I once knew a dude who broadcast everywhere that they were a musician, and acted like they were hot #### on guitar. But every time this person played in the dorms, every once in a blue moon, they practiced for maybe 15 minutes. Seven minutes of playing "I am Iron Man," badly. Followed by 7 or 8 minutes of fiddling around with mangled licks. I'm sure this person still believes they're a star, but it's frankly pitiable to everyone who sees it. Don't be that person.
One final reason for boredom, which I think is worthy of consideration, is the question of what one really wants with the guitar. What are one's goals? And are these goals realistic? Is it realistic to expect one to practice so many hours a day for so many years, etc? I know some players, for instance, who really don't have any aspiration to play more than a few chords or licks they hear on the radio. They own that goal, and that's just fine! Because the reality of what will make you happy playing guitar, like anything else, is knowing what you REALLY want. Because if you know your REAL goal, look at the REAL obstacle, and set REAListic steps for yourself, there will be progress. And that won't feel frustrating. It will feel good.
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