Monday Motivation: Keeping a Habit

Happy Monday, practice pals! It’s our final Monday Motivation! Today’s is short and sweet, inspired by Atomic Habits by James Clear

As I write this on the final Monday of our practice challenge, our students are on the precipice of a huge achievement – practicing daily for a full month. That’s no small feat! The dedication and hard work it takes to complete a full month of anything is worth validating. I’m sure there have been days where you weren’t feeling it, but you did it anyway. Congratulations – you’re almost there!

Now it’s time for the obligatory “don’t lose all the momentum you just built up” talk. How can we keep this progress going? I can’t exactly dangle the metaphorical carrot of a pizza party every single month (though that’d be fun).

Here’s a tip from Atomic Habits: Don’t let the “I don’t notice a difference” mindset take over.

Early on in the book, Clear notes that “outcomes are lagging measures of habits.” In an instant gratification society, so many of us give up on something because we don’t feel/see/hear results as quickly as we want to. We tend to underestimate the effect that small changes can have. But anyone who is highly skilled didn’t acquire all that skill in one sitting – they made tiny improvements day after day after day. It’s the 1% rule:

“If you can get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1% worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero. What starts as a small win or a minor setback accumulates into something much more.”

What can you do to help your child continue their 1% daily gains? Here are a few of our tried and true tips:

  • Have a consistent routine. I enjoyed hearing about newfound practice routines from many of you over the course of the challenge. Part of building a habit is deciding when, where, and how something is going to happen. If you put practice time on your family calendar – good – keep it there!
  • Reinforce progress made. We can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes. As practicers, we are so entrenched in the work of making progress that sometimes we lose sight of how far we’ve already come. Remind your child of that! Something as simple as “wow, do you remember when that felt hard?” is huge.
  • Find motivators. Having a determined end goal for something – perhaps, a recital and a pizza party – can help the hamster wheel of practice and improvement feel a little bit more tangible. We can work together to create these goals, but, in case you didn’t know, there’s only 63 days between our February recital and our May recital. Might as well keep the momentum going!

You can hear a summary of Clear’s book straight from him by clicking here.

And, if you’re interested, here’s a reading list of the books referenced over the course of this month:

  • Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
  • Grit by Angela Duckworth
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear

Happy practicing!


Monday Motivation: Ignition

Happy Monday, practice pals!

Our Monday Motivation for this week is about ignition.

Ignition is a concept discussed heavily in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. He referred to it as the “2nd Element of The Talent Code,” meaning that after deep practice, an ignition event is a huge indicator of long term success.

So what is it?

Ignition is an often serendipitous event that sparks a desire to learn something new.

For Dr. Suzuki himself, his moment of ignition to learn the violin happened when he heard famed violinist Mischa Elman perform Ave Maria. He said:

“The sweetness of the sound of Elman’s violin utterly enthralled me. His velvety tone as he played the melody was like something in a dream. It made a tremendous impression on me….I brought a violin home … I tried to imitate him. I had no score, and simply moved the bow, trying to play what I heard.”

For me personally, my ignition moment happened when my elementary violin teacher helped me play Twinkle at an instrument try out event for orchestra recruitment. I still remember it – I very clearly thought “this is the coolest thing I will ever do.” The rest is history.

You’ve probably experienced your own ignition moment. That sudden wave of “whatever this is, I wanna do it.”

Ignition is special. It feels like magic. Coyle himself recognizes that ignition is what inspires the action required to develop a skill, but that ignition cannot be forced.

You can nudge it, though. 

You can’t have ignition without exposure. So, create opportunities to expose your child to things. It obviously doesn’t have to be just violin – but that is my lane – so here are some suggestions:

  • Catch a live performance. The CSO offers concerts for kids regularly and there are free concerts at Millennium Park in the summer. 
  • Come to group class. Seeing how other kids play is what Coyle calls a “primal cue.” If a student overhears a peer playing something really well, they are often inspired to work a little harder the next time they practice.
  • Explore YouTube together. There’s access to tons of world class violin performance, both classical and contemporary. Here’s a playlist to explore
  • Don’t force it. Don’t hover. Let them be free to enjoy the experience and see what follows.

Happy Practicing!


Monday Motivation: Mindset

Happy Monday! 

Today is day 2 of our studio’s annual practice challenge. Each Monday of the challenge, we’ll be posting a little bit of Monday Motivation covering some of the neuroscience of practice, skill building, and talent development.

This week’s motivation covers the concept of mindset and motivation.

Dr. Carol Dweck has spent her career researching mindset and motivation. 
The summary of her findings over her career have separated mindset into two categories: growth mindset or fixed mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe that all of their abilities are unchangeable and they are unable to improve. Because they believe effort does not make a difference, they often don’t try. These people tend to give up on tasks quickly, especially when they perceive the task to be too much of a challenge.

People with a growth mindset, however, believe in the power of “yet.” They believe in their ability to improve and eventually reach their goals, even if that goal feels out of reach to them in the present. People with a growth mindset are resilient and persevere to reach their goals, no matter what.

Dr. Dweck has found over the course of her research that when a growth mindset is carefully modeled and reinforced for young children, they make HUGE strides in what they can achieve.

In one study, Dr. Dweck discovered the role that specific feedback plays in fostering a growth mindset.

In the study, young children were given a low difficulty quiz. When they were graded, the feedback they were given was brief, but carried different messages. One group of children was told “you must be so smart.” The other group of children was told “you must have worked hard.”

The students were then given another quiz, this time much harder than the previous. This time, the children that were praised for being “smart” achieved less than the children who were praised for working hard. Dr. Dweck was so surprised by the result that she replicated the study several times. The result was the same each time: children who were praised for effort outpaced children who were praised for intellect.

The message is clear: ability is cultivated, not innate, and we can teach children to achieve by fostering the mindset that they can accomplish anything if they work hard.

My challenge to you this week during your practice time is to choose the feedback you offer your child carefully. Spend this week praising their effort rather than their ability and notice what changes it inspires in their motivation.

Watch Dr. Dweck’s talk on growth mindset below.

Happy practicing!