Habits consist of those routine actions performed everyday of our lives – what you spend time doing and thinking about; they make up about 40 percent of our behaviours everyday. There are good habits and there are bad habits. Bad habits are formed when you find it impossible to adjust or learn the corresponding good habit.
Truthfully, bad habits are easier to learn because they just seem like more fun and pretty easy to do, but learning bad habits as a musician is the beginning of stunted growth in your music career, it sabotages your ability to succeed and achieve your dreams in life and in music. It is true that some musicians display negative habits or attitudes towards their work without knowing while some know and just do it anyways🤷♀️
Let’s take a look at 5 very bad habits that slow down your growth speed or completely hold you back from growing as a musician.
1. PROCRASTINATION AND DISTRACTION
Meet the mother of stunted growth! Lol. Everyone procrastinates at one point or the other in their lives . Procrastination is the “I will do it some other time” lifestyle and it’s not healthy for any musician. There is always a free flow of distractions that would make you want to procrastinate (social media being in charge of the distractions department), when you drink from this free flowing stream of distractions all the time, you gradually sideline your goals and achievements. As humans, our thoughts are constantly pulled in a gazillion directions which makes it hard to focus sometimes. This is what I do when I find myself in space with a billion thoughts; I take a moment, close my eyes, take deep breaths, calm my mind and mentally figure out the one I want to concentrate on.
I’m not saying do not rest or take breaks when you need to (rests are extremely important for musicians), but map out your time in such a way that when it’s time to work or get something done, nothing else comes in between. If you have set out a particular time to achieve something, let’s say 3 hours of practice, ensure you strictly use up your assigned 3 hours for practice; don’t practice for 1 hour and goof around with 2 hours, doing this will definitely not make you achieve the goal for the day. Let’s now assume you pull this off consistently for a week: 7 days multiplied by 2 daily wasted hours = 14 hours! 14 precious hours that would have brought you closer to achieving big goals.
Musicians are naturally creatives; whenever an idea drops into your head whether you’re a songwriter, a singer, music producer or you play an instrument, make sure a pen and paper is always handy so you can write it down even if you cannot start working on it ASAP, and do not take too long before working on fresh ideas, they might just get stale and uninteresting for you, leaving you with a shameful track record of unattainable goals.
2. SELF DOUBT
This is any habit that implies the “I don’t think I can” mentality. It’s not easy being a musician, no matter what stage of music or professionalism you’re in. Beginner, intermediate and advanced musicians have their fair share of challenges at their different levels.
The challenging thoughts and questions of a beginner like “It’s too difficult”, “When will I be able to play like so and so person?” or “Will I ever truly gain mastery of this instrument?” is quite different from that of an advanced or intermediate musician, these ones encounter thoughts like “Why don’t I get as much gigs as I used to?”, “I need more money for more gear”, “I need more ideas and time to create content”, “What new stuff can I put out there?”. Now you see that every musician is at a stage where their minds ask them intimidating questions.
These questions and thoughts must definitely pop into your head, but what unconscious and conscious responses do you give? Positive – “I’ll get there someday”, “I’m better than I was yesterday”, “I’m making progress, it might be slow and gradual but it’s worth it” or Negative – “Naaah! This isn’t working”, “I’m too dull”, “I’m so broke I think I’m gonna pack up and never get up again”, “I’m such a blockhead! No single idea!”. The choice is yours – to either fill up your unending questions with positive or negative responses.
One thing I want you to know is this – the more you constantly doubt yourself and give in to pessimism, the more your dreams are killed and gradually, it swallows up the optimistic part of your mind, leaving you in a negative, sorrowful thought loop every time. Never doubt yourself even for a minute, the person(s) you look up to once had challenges like you; did they come out of it? Yes. So why can’t you?
3. BLAME GAME
Anything that makes you deny responsibilities for your actions; especially taking the blame for your mistakes, will no doubt impede your growth in your music career. In one of my YouTube videos, I was talking about my early days as a beginner guitarist and I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of recording myself when playing (which is very wrong by the way) and on the day I recorded myself during a gig and listened afterwards, I realized I played trash from beginning to end. What did I do? I blamed my wacky playing on the sound engineer! I blamed him for not setting the sound right, which in turn caused my wacky tone. Can you imagine that?!.
Look, it is a human thing to do and it’s actually very tempting to take the yoke of blame off your neck and place it on something or someone else but instead of doing that, take action: accept your faults and look for ways to fix it right next time. Learn how to stop attributing your shortcomings to people or things.
Blame game is a quick bad habit to grasp, but it can be controlled. You’re in charge of your actions all the time, no matter the situation. Stop making excuses!
4. NEGATIVE ATTITUDE TOWARDS CRITICISM
No one is perfect, we all have our struggles and flaws. It’s one thing to have weaknesses, and it’s another thing to accept the knowledge that you have weaknesses. One bad habit that would pull you down very quickly is the inability to accept genuine constructive criticisms from colleagues, family, friends and even fans. Naturally, human beings like to hear from those people who praise them and tell them that they do everything right, but we disdain and refrain from those who tell us where our shortcomings lay and offer useful advice on how to get through it, you need to be around those who would help you grow, not those who are only around for ass kissing.
To grow and improve in your music career, open up your mind to everyone who gives sincere criticism with no pun intended, get feedback and act upon it. I understand that some people nag and complain a lot no matter what you do, but when more than 3 to 4 honest people have expressed criticism and mentioned a particular thing or habit or attitude, then you’ll know it’s not right: this is how to know! It could be the need to change something in your playing, to change a posture or position when playing, to change fingering patterns, vocal quality, anything at all! Even if it’s a habit that has grown on you and you find hard to change, come out of your comfort zone and make attempt, just be open minded and flexible towards change!
5. UNDEFINED/UNREALISTIC GOALS
We all have dreams and goals that we want to achieve either long term or short term. The first step towards achieving any goal at all is to make sure that it is realistic, then you can go ahead and define it and draw out a roadmap (plan) towards achieving your set goals. This is one bad habit of musicians who are overthinkers, they slow themselves down in their music career progress by spending too much time dreaming about what could be and spend much less time in actually making it happen.
I know there’s a phrase that says “dream big” but I carry another one in my head that says “dream real and work towards achieving it”. Have a clear vision about what you want to achieve and strategize on how to get there, if you just keep thinking about big goals without actually working on any, you’ll end up steering yourself completely off course and at the end of the day you’ll achieve nothing; not even the smaller goals that would have taken you little or no time to achieve.
These are just to mention but a few bad habits that really drag down musicians and hold them back from growing; there are so many others. At least, you have an idea of what a bad habit looks like. If you have been doing them or thinking about them unconsciously, gain consciousness and stop it now! Feed your mind with positive thoughts and optimism.
Here is my own idea of dealing with bad habits:
Engage the 21/90 rule which states – It takes 21 days to develop a habit and 90 days to develop a lifestyle.
A bad habit wouldn’t just go away if there is nothing to replace it with. Apply this principle and consciously replace your bad habit with a corresponding good one, you’ll see the rate at which your growth will begin to take place. Trust me on this!😉