Pushups for a Year

Around New Year’s day, I read an article written by a guy who had done pushups every day for a year. The first week of January, he did only one pushup a day, every day for a week. Then for the 2nd week of January, he did 2 pushups a day. He continued increasing by one pushup every week for a year, and then wrote about his experience and what he had learned.

Of course, my mind went to dulcimer practice. But practicing 1 minute a day for the 1st week, then 2 minutes, then 3 wouldn't work. And I know I wouldn’t have time to regularly practice 40 minutes a day, then 41 minutes, then 42 minutes toward the end of the year. As much as his system stirred my motivation, the plan translated to music practice wasn’t practical for me.

However, his article has stuck in my mind for over a month now. Some of the lessons he learned over that year would surely be the same for musicians, if we practiced faithfully every day (even if only for 15 minutes) every single day for an entire year.

For example …

  • Baby steps work. There might be days when you don’t “feel” like practicing, when you want to rationalize, “Skipping just one day won’t hurt.” But if you just put the dulcimer in your lap, or pick up the hammers, I promise you will always follow through by playing at least 10 minutes.

  • Chunk it down. You might start out highly motivated, full steam ahead, practicing a ridiculously long time. But then you run the risk of burning out and droppiing the whole thing (like what happened to some of my New Year's diet plans). It might be better to practice for 15 to 30 minutes, then take a break and do something else. Come back to your instrument later if you have time.

  • Plan milestones. You might say, “I can do this. I will practice every day for a straight week.” When you succeed at that, celebrate. Then make it your goal to practice every day for two weeks straight.  And then a month.  At the end of each successful run of practicing without missing a day, celebrate!

  • Get others involved. There’s nothing like a cheering section of friends and loved ones, who will congratulate you every time you reach another milestone.

  • Give yourself feedback. Evaluate what is working, what isn’t, and what could be improved. For example, maybe you have noticed that you play better in the morning when you are fresh, rather than in the evening when you are tired.

  • Keep going. If you try this experiment and reach a milestone, don’t just pat yourself on the back and say, "Well done, self." Keep going. Set another challenge, a more difficult one, for yourself.

In order to improve as a musician, you have to practice consistently. It’s much better to practice for fifteen minutes every day than to practice for an hour once or twice per week … or month.  Now, quit reading about it, get that instrument out, and start practicing.

Happy dulcimering,



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