Try a Motivation Ritual


Since piano parents are my audience for helping guide my piano students, I need to give them advice that’s concrete. I participated in a book club of piano teachers that read James Clear’s Atomic Habits. It’s not at all a book targeted to musicians, but rather to anyone looking to form and strengthen habits. Regular practice is essentially a good habit, so many of his ideas can be applied. I learned to create a motivation ritual to get to the piano bench.

What Is A Motivation Ritual?

The motivation ritual is simply a device that gets you to do something you want to do by tacking it onto something that you enjoy. If you want to get into the habit of doing a morning devotional, whether that be reading the Bible or another book, connect it with some kickoff activity.  The kickoff activity could be making a cup of coffee plus preparing the coffee table. You sit down, beverage in hand, and your book is right there, so why not start reading?

How Can It Be Applied to Piano?

You can create a motivation ritual for piano practice as well. Maybe it’s gotten to the point where staring at the piano bench causes guilt? If starting is an issue, then create a motivation ritual that gets you to sit down on that piano bench. It could be to listen to a piece of music, play a piece you know and love, or do some sight reading. I often carry forward a review piece for my youngest kids so they have a piece that gets them excited to being practice.

Making Practice Probable Is Sometimes Enough!

The beauty of the motivation ritual is that it makes the difficult habit possible, without being heavy-handed. There may be some days where practice doesn’t follow the kickoff activity, which got you to the bench in the first place. But, on other days, practice does follow. That practice may not have occurred if you didn’t start with something that helped you ease into it.

young man playing the piano
Jeune Homme au Piano (1876) – Gustave Caillebotte – Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo
Last Updated 2021-09-18 | Originally Posted 2019-09-21