D is for discipline.
It’s also for difficult.
D is also for Doohicky, but that’s not what this post is about.
I think we’ve all struggled at times with the motivation to get to the gym, get into the prayer closet, or get to that practice room. So how do we push ourselves to be faithful and disciplined in these activities when the payoff is so hard to assess? How do we remain faithful when the progress seems interminably slow? Here are some tips that work both in our musical & our spiritual lives.
- Remove distractions
I don’t know about you, but as soon as it’s time to hunker down and get something done I start to feel the need to clean, or check facebook, or fold that laundry that’s been laying on the guest bed unfolded for two days. In the moment when it’s really time to practice or talk with God I can find myriad viable excuses for other “more pressing” things that need to be accomplished.
How do I tackle this? I have create in my home two rooms that have no other purpose. I call ’em the P rooms. One is for practicing. One is for prayer. Everything in those spaces support the endeavor. Because those spaces are not used for other activities there are no TVs, computers, telephones, or laundry baskets to distract. These uncluttered spaces are an outward representation of the clarity of mind that comes when I spent time there. I am there for one purpose and none other. This allows me to close the door and give my all, unfettered by the lingering dust bunnies under the ottoman.
2. Look for cracks of light along the way
Things that require discipline are slow-going. When I think of the hours in my life that I have spent playing long tones and scales, it’s honestly a little mind numbing. We’ve all heard that fake law of 10,000 hours (do anything for 10,000 hours and you’ll be an expert), but there’s more than a modicum of truth to that. So how do we stay on task for as long as it takes to actually get somewhere?
Along the way, we must celebrate every small victory. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” People, we are awful at this. We are so quick to criticize and judge ourselves; picking apart the three things we did horribly in the midst of the 30 things we are finally getting right. Notice the small victories, the cracks of light, the moments that herald something more is on the way! As Alex Haley said, “Find the good and praise it,” not only in others, but in yourself.
3. Have a goal.
When it comes to horn playing it’s easier since many of those goals are set up by external forces. I have this concert coming up, or that event I’m performing for or this audition which has these specific requirements. With our spiritual walk it’s different. Much more personal. And it sounds odd to say “I have spiritual goals.” But goals are key. Tony Robbins said, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”
So looking now at your spiritual life, what isn’t there that you’d like to be there?
A few years ago I hadn’t read through the bible once EVER, and now because of a spiritual goal I set (and the Daily Audio Bible) I am in the midst of my 4th time through the word. And my faith is transforming daily because of it.
A few years ago, I had NO prayer life. Zero. None. I’d lay down at night and fall asleep while repenting AGAIN for the same sins I’d repented for the day before. That was the extent of my relationship with God. So my goal? To pray daily. I can tell you that since I set that goal there have been birthdays where I looked back over the year and could say honestly, this was a year marked by prayer.
As of late, I have a new spiritual goal. It is to be missional daily. Everyday in some small way I want to reach out to someone as Christ would, giving in some small way what I can. Just one selfless act, every day. Somedays that looks like a simple encouraging text message. Somedays it’s much bigger than that.
So what’s your spiritual goal this year? What’s the thing you are marching towards with fervor?
Let me close with this. I teach about 15 horn students weekly. Each time they see me, I assign them etudes, solos, exercises, etc. Yes, we work hard in the lesson but the real work takes place between sessions. If they are not disciplined during the week, it shows when they come and we are unable to accomplish much. If they have worked incredibly hard, their pace accelerates and they leave other, less motivated students in the dust.
Why is it that we assume that we can get a once-a-week spiritual dose on Sundays and that it will be enough to sustain us? We must instead view those moments of coming into God’s house as the litmus test which reminds us to keep pursuing Him, and the motivating kick-in-the-pants which encourages us to keep our spiritual disciplines intact.
When it comes to our spiritual lives, it’s that time spent everyday in prayer, the talking and the listening to God, and time spent in study (the pursuit of actually knowing the whole God through his word) that turn us over time into spiritual giants. These are not sexy activities. Our nature as humans doesn’t give us an appetite for such things. But the word says that God can GIVE us a spirit of self-discipline.
So, let’s start today by setting a simple spiritual goal- one is all you need. Let’s set ourselves up for success by creating a space (both mentally and physically) to accomplish what we’ve set out to do. Wouldn’t it be phenomenal if you could look back one year from now and see a whole year marked by the spiritual discipline that you decided upon and implemented today?