Previously on “the four tendencies”, I gave suggestions to obligers and questioners that could help them practice their instrument regularly.
Today, let’s talk about upholders. People with this tendency meet both inner and outer expectations without much trouble. Forming good habits comes pretty easily to them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a little help too!
If you are a musician or a music teacher, here are 4 fundamental qualities you can work on if you want your tendency to remain a strength and not become a weakness.
Even if upholders meet both inner and outer expectations, one of these is predominant in their behavior. Upholders are likely to prioritize outer duties (work-related for instance) and not to leave time for personal projects in their schedule. It is very important to find a good balance between personal and work-related projects. Therefore, you need to clearly identify and express your personal plans so that they acquire the same weight as professional duties.
Balance tip: Write down tasks related to personal projects on your schedule, just as you would for work projects.
When everything is planned, there is little time left for improvisation and creativity. Freedom is absolutely necessary, otherwise the desire to be productive may become oppressive. Set aside free time to let new projects emerge, and to let unexpected events arise. An impromptu rehearsal with friends? Standing in for another musician in an orchestra? A last minute gig at a local bar? Upholders tend to be uncomfortable saying yes to those types of opportunities, especially when they come up at the last minute, as they disrupt their pre-established schedule. Allow yourself the freedom to say yes! It may be helpful to trick yourself into it, by setting aside “free time” or “open project time” on your schedule. If you know you’ve rationally decided to allot some hours to the unexpected, you will be more likely to accept (and expect) it.
Freedom tip: Schedule the unexpected! Who said that upholders are not spontaneous enough?
Upholders also tend to make their own rules more and more inflexible. Gretchen Rubin calls this phenomenon “tightening”, and shares that many upholders, herself included, have experienced this. So you may start with the resolve to practice the clarinet every morning before everyone wakes up, then slowly add one rule after another… and end up rigidly thinking that clarinet absolutely has to start at 6.30 sharp with 6 minutes for warm-up, 8 minutes for scales, 12 minutes for studies and 18 for pieces, always in the same order. If it gets like this… it’s probably time to take a break and ask yourself some simple but fundamental questions. Why am I doing this? Is the way I’m doing things the best to achieve my goal? Would a little flexibility help my practice?
Flexibility tip: Don’t let your rules take over your judgment! Revise your routines and question them every now and them. Be open to novelty and change!
An upholder music teacher should be aware that most other people are different from him. Upholders are the less numerous in the population among the 4 tendencies, so there aren’t very many upholder students. Be careful not to judge your students’ behavior too quickly, don’t be impatient when one of them has issues applying your advice or achieving their goals. They are probably not doing it just to annoy you, and their struggle to practice regularly now doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of becoming great musicians. They probably have another tendency and might need specific advice to help unlock their full potential.
Tolerance tip: Don’t judge, strategize! Put your planning and organization skills to good use and help your students find the best strategy for them. (emphasis on them, and not an idealized fellow upholder!)
The next and last post will be about rebels. Until then, dear upholders, do tell me what you think of those tips, and share some other strategies you may have set up!