Remember my post about Gretchen Rubin “four tendencies” ? Over 200 people answered my poll, thank you all!
The poll reveals that obligers are predominant, with 33% of the voters. This is in keeping with what Gretchen observed, in the general population. Yep, musicians are just like everyone else after all, who would have thought?
Today, I’ll present a few strategies that obligers can follow in their daily lives to help them practice their instrument more regularly.
An obliger responds better to outer expectations and external pressure. They need accountability, and more: what they need the most is to feel that others need them. Here are a few practical tips:
Join a band or an orchestra
If you know that others are counting on you, you’ll be more motivated to practice at home. You’ll want to avoid penalizing the whole band, so you’ll make sure you’re ready to play and up to the others’ level! The greater your responsibilities withing the group, the better this strategy will work. You will feel more important if your group is small in size, and even more so if you have a special role to play. You’ll feel more needed if you’re the only bass clarinet in a quartet than if you’re just another 2nd clarinet in a large orchestra. No way to hide your lack of regular practice behind other players! Don’t hesitate to volunteer if you want this kind of special responsibility. It can be much appreciated by the rest of the group and will show your commitment.
You can set up your own chamber group or jazz band, even if you already belong to a larger orchestra. If you take on the role of founder and leader, you’ll be one of the most necessary members. What better motivator for your every day practice?
Become a mentor for another musician
Become a mentor for a younger or more beginner player, so you can be useful to them in two ways: you can help them overcome any difficulty they may have in their own daily practice, and you can be a role model, helping them see what they can accomplish. That is a lot of pressure, and you’re going to want to make progress so you can live up to someone else’s expectations. Obligers hate to disappoint. Offer to help, whenever the occasion arises. You might be surprised by the positive feedback you’ll get, even if you don’t yet feel that you’re a “pro”. Everyone is someone’s hero!
Set up partnerships with your peers
Organize practice sessions in pairs. That is likely to be very effective for you, since if you’re not there, the session is canceled. The other player will suffer from your absence, and that is exactly the type of motivator you need. You might think that a one-on-one class with a teacher leads to the same result, but that isn’t exactly the case. The teacher doesn’t suffer as much from your absence — he is getting paid whether you are there or not! If the teacher scolds you, you’re the one suffering from it, not anyone else. This is why it doesn’t really work for obligers. They work better when someone else may suffer from their own lack of work.
Find a peer who will appreciate your pair sessions and will truly benefit from your presence. Another obliger would be a perfect fit, since you would hold each other accountable and you would both feel useful while benefiting from the other’s help.
Sign contracts with your spouse, family or friends.
Imagine some kind of pact you can make with your loved ones, in order to create external pressure. They don’t even have to be musicians, and the pacts can be about anything! For example, your spouse isn’t allowed to go do something they enjoy, unless you have practiced your instrument. This may seem extreme… but it’s surprisingly efficient. You will want to keep everyone happy and make sure you practice, especially if you know you might otherwise deprive them from something they enjoy… and that they might resent you for it! Don’t worry, this can be fun, too. Make the pact reciprocal so both sides gain something from it. No chocolate for you unless I play the clarinet for an hour… and no pizza for me if you don’t go to the gym!
The next post will be about questioners. Until then, dear obligers, do tell me what you think of those tips, and share some other strategies you may have set up!