Turbo charge your practice sessions

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How to program your mind to achieve extraordinary results

Greetings fellow shredder. This article will give you a vital strategy that you can use to improve your results dramatically. It's a little long but reading it is well worth your effort. By now you should have laid down a plan for the ten days. You have scheduled every possible 30 minute session during this period and should be clear about the rules of the game. Now it's time to set up a supporting system around your practice sessions. This system will make it more fun and more rewarding to practice, and it will boost the results dramatically. The first element in this system is a technique that you can use to program your mind for greater results.

Negative expectations makes you stupid

Have you ever been in a really embarrassing situation? Or in a situation where you felt strong and unpleasant emotions? Please think about that situation now. Close your eyes and imagine that situation as vividly as possible. If you really put yourself back in that situation, you are going to feel some of the same emotions that you felt back then. The brain reacts to your internal mages, smells, sounds and sensations and it connects the experience you have now, to your memory of several other experiences in the past. When we practice, the emotions we feel while we do it, gets connected to all the other as stimuli of the moment: the room, your instrument, the smells, and any other significant things in your environment.

Like alternate picking without the pick

And here's the point: if you experience the emotions of frustration enough times when you practice, or even just the feeling of "gosh, I might never learn this" you are going to connect those states to the situation of practicing. And the state you are in, influences what your brain is willing to do. If you're in a great state and you really believe and expect yourself to perform fantastic on the instrument - then your brain will have access to much more of its resources, than if you expect to fail.

In other words: negative expectations makes you stupid!  And why is this important? Because when you practice while being in a bad state, chances are you won't do very well. It's like trying to practice alternate picking without the pick, you can get results with the tip of your finger but it's much more rewarding to have all your tools available when you practice, and it's going to take you much further faster.

"The number one reason that I am always motivated to practice is because my brain knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I'm going to succeed"

The number one reason for failure

The really scary thing about this is that when you expect to get poor results, your mental and emotional state will give you poor results. Which in turn will make the brain even more certain that it will fail. This negative spiral is the number one reason why so many people fail to achieve the level of skill they want. This is the beast that kills your fun and your progress. But you are not far away from the solution:

Total certainty is the key

Now how many times have you felt frustrated with yourself? How many times have you been practicing, thinking "I'll probably never learn this". In order to make sure that we practice in the best states, we must counter attack the memories of failure. We must consciously create experiences that teaches the brain that practicing means pleasure and that it always leads to success. 

We must create enough experiences of success to make it to expect success. The number one reason that I am always motivated to practice is because my brain knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm going to succeed. Very early in my career, I established the habit of playing the metronome game and measuring everything I did on a minute to minute basis. And that gave me the ability to predict how much time and effort I needed put in, in order to achieve what I wanted. In other words; I had total certainty.

"The more uncertain you are that you will succeed, the less motivated you will be"

Creating the experience of success in advance

If someone told you that they would give you $1 million cashif you j umped up and down for two hours, each day for a full year, would you do it? Well it depends on who you are. But I know a lot of people who would, if they were certain that they would get the million dollars. The more uncertain they where of whether or not they would actually get the million dollars, the less motivated they would be to put in the effort. And this is the key: the more uncertain you are, that you will succeed, the less motivated you will be.

And how can you become certain if you don't have any proof that you will succeed? Well one way is to take on small enough challenges and conquer those first, instead of biting off more than you can chew. This will make you go from one success experience to another, building certainty that you can do anything. But there's another way to create certainty, it's called visualization. It's creating the experience of success in advance.

Classical Melodic Sequence

Let's take a break from the ultra fast licks for a minute and play something melodic. This sequence is a very nice improvising tool. So be sure to integrate it with all the other licks and runs you know. I use both alternate picking and economy picking for this one

Here's how to do it:

The brain has a weakness that we can use to have all our tools available when the practice: it's not very good at telling the difference between something you imagine and something that really happened. If you imagine yourself playing the way you would like to play your brain is going to think that you really can do it. It's going to create a new past for you. People who are very confident use this technique all the time, whether they are aware of it or not. It's using your imagination creatively. While you imagine doing your best, the brain wallows in these images of success, until i virtually expects to succeed when you sit down and practice. Top athletes use this technique, politicians use it before a big speech and you can use it to turbo charge your progress.

Now here are some quick rules to follow when you visualize:

1. Visualize in the first person

Avoid seeing yourself from the outside. You want to get as close as possible to the real experience of practicing. Close your eyes and imagine looking down on your hands and fingers - see the instrument from that same angle as when you practice.

2. Use all your senses

Imagine how it sounds when you play that killer lick. Imagine how the strings feel beneath your fingers. Remember how it feels to hold the pick. If you're alone in the car when you visualize, you can even use your face to make expressions. Put a big fat grin on your face like you would if you just learned to play the coolest lick in the world. Sit like you're holding a guitar so your body is engaged as well. The more sense perceptions, internal and external, the more real it gets to the brain, and the more effective your visualization is.

3. The more frequent the better

The more times you visualize during the day the more effective this is. Make sure that you remember to visualize whenever you have a couple of minutes for yourself. Pull out some post-it notes and put one on the bathroom mirror, so you remember to visualize every time you wash your hands. Put a note in the car and anywhere else you might find it appropriate to visualize. You can do it while you do the laundry or the dishes, you can do it when you go to bed at night or when you wake up. Use every single little opportunity you can to implant the image of success in your brain.

I used to do this all the time. When ever there wasn't something outside of me that grabbed my attention I visualized continuesly. I constantly soaked my brain in these awesome images of me being able to play the most incredible runs. I wasn't aware of any technique, but I did it and it worked wonders for me.

A terrible addiction

When you add visualization to your practicing routines, you engage one more strategy that will propel you towards what you want. You create even more momentum. And when you practice visualization several times a day for 10 days it becomes a habit. The brain will go on doing this by itself, even when the 10 days over. As your confidence in your self becomes stronger and stronger, so does your motivation to practice. You create more and more experiences of success and very quickly, what you visualize becomes reality. Now the brain is hooked and you'll become addicted to speed. But that's an addiction most guitar players can manage to live with.