Teresa Amabile on meaningful work
Master cellist Pablo Casals was no stranger to meaningful work:
Yet even having attained such unquestionable mastery of his instrument, throughout his entire life Casals maintained a disciplined regimen of practicing for five or six hours every day. On the day he died, at the age of 96, he had already put in several hours practicing his scales. A few years earlier, when he was 93, a friend asked him why, after all he had achieved, he was still practicing as hard as ever. “Because,” Casals replied, “I think I’m making progress.”
Most of us have a start-stop relationship with guitar. We get excited for a while, then somehow we become busy with other things and stop practicing.
When we haven’t played in awhile, it can be difficult to sit down and practice. Even if we know guitar is something wonderful in our lives, we still feel resistance.
When we have a few days of practice behind us, we start to see progress. We feel our good work is making a difference. And this makes it easy to show up tomorrow and practice more.
It’s easier to sit down and practice for the fourth or fifth day in row than it is from a cold start.
Once we’re in motion and seeing results, we’re drawn to the guitar.
When we see progress, we can more readily accept the hard parts. We can delay the immediate rewards of playing something we already know, and spend our precious practice time on more challenging tasks.
When we feel successful, we’re apt to create more success for ourselves. We’re more likely to invest time and energy into doing more of what made us feel good.
We could test the theory that to see more progress (and therefore boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions), all we have to do is show up and work.
After a few days of practicing right-hand patterns and chords, learning music and running scales, we’ll feel more enthusiasm, enjoyment, and fulfillment.
All it takes is time and attention.
“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions…, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”