When teaching music online, perhaps you – like most other music teachers, prefer your students to focus on their long-term goals. But it’s important to make sure they’re enjoying the little things too. We all know what happened to Jack, as the popular adage makes it very clear – ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’

Before understanding why such little things are important, let’s take a look at two contradictory perspectives.

Conflicting viewpoints of Aristippus vs. Aristotle

Aristippus - who was a student of Socrates, believed good life included doing all things that are fun and pleasant at the moment, while steering clear of things that make a person feel bad.

According to Aristotle – the famous Greek philosopher, an individual can become the best version of himself/herself by maximizing his/her potential and acting corresponding to his/her ingrained principles and values. What Aristotle meant was that by pursuing your best self, you can attain true mastery and well-being.

As a music teacher, you may find your students inclined to go the Aristippus way, as it appears to be fun. And though it may work in the short run, your students need to focus on their long-term goals and follow the path shown by Aristotle. Just imagine your students’ binge-watching their favorite show on Netflix ahead of their recital. It would make them forget the tension momentarily and even help them feel good but that’s only in the short run. They’ll need to consider their long-term goals too (becoming an adept musician) by practicing the scales and notes, implementing the teacher’s feedback, going through the recorded practice sessions for their upcoming recital, etc. if they want the recital to be a success.

But don’t all these mean you’ll have to forget enjoying the little things? No, they don’t.

Hedonic capacity vs. self-control

Studies have found that life satisfaction and general well-being are related to self-control. However, they also found the participants’ hedonic capacity or their ability to engage in enjoyable, relaxing activities, and have fun at the moment was almost two times more related to their life satisfaction and general well-being.

When you apply these results to music, this means your students need to make time for relaxing and fun activities right now. As their teacher, you can help them do it through musical games, encourage them to improvise or even make mistakes and learn, etc. You could even make it mandatory that your students schedule a 24-hour no-practice-period each week to switch-off, relax, and engage in fun activities (playing with the dog, helping the parents cook a meal, etc). The key is to help them enjoy the small things, feel recharged, and get ready for the big musical tasks again.