Remember Your Early Goals

I remember when I first started playing the banjo, one of my main goals was to sit under a pine tree (a very specific one) and play Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Somehow, that goal got lost rather quickly for me, and I forgot about it for a few years. Until one day, it came back to me. Quickly, I went over to the tree about 100 yards from my folk’s house. Sitting there overlooking a quiet meadow, I performed the expected song. The deed was done and I remember that otherwise mundane event to this day.

Pine Tree by The Gate

So I went on to set other goals; usually more complex, yet generally not as significant. Looking back, at times it was a little like attaining goals simply for the collection of goals. As time went on and I was able to do more and more, new things started to lose that thrill of the first things I had accomplished.

But you have to remember what brought you here. Why? Because there is this mental phenomenon that goes on as you become more advanced with anything. You want to avoid it. I don’t have a name for it, but if you have ever excelled at anything, you will surely recognize it. You become jaded to the very thing that once fascinated you, even as you become better and better at it. You find yourself longing for “the good old days” when you first started; when the whole world revolved around this new activity or concept, and all other things even became more fascinating and successful because of it.

I remember seeing the movie ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’, the story of Loretta Lynn. In the movie, she becomes more and more successful until one day, she is frustrated with the direction everything is going and tells her husband Doolittle that she wants to build a cabin. Just a simple little cabin to start over in. I suspect she was thinking along the same lines as what we are talking about here.

So, if that sounds familiar, know that I have also been there; still go there from time to time, even. Having been there, I do think I know what it is you must do to keep that fascination intact.

1) Set goals. Either write them down, or keep them important enough to you that you’ll be able to look back and tell where you came from and where you are.

2) Remember the details. Remember them in two ways.

  • If you’ve been playing a while, revisit your early days of learning to play in as much details as possible. These are the reasons you started playing in the first place. Make the mental connection between your early goals (ever if they we just general goals such as ‘learning to play the banjo’) and your current motivation.
  • Also remember todays’ details. Because you have goals to work towards, remember as much detail as you can, and let this become the material that helps make even today a continuation of “the good old days”.

3) Learn something new! Of course, we should all be learning something new, but often, we get away from it. This has such a positive effect, you’ll definitely want to keep this in mind.

I hope this helps when you are feeling unmotivated to play!

About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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