How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice, Practice, Practice!
This joke was told often in my childhood home. Each of us Sander kids took music lessons of some sort, and we were all varsity athletes. So there was lots of practicing going on in our home. Indeed it could get loud if I was practicing the piano and someone else was on the violin in another part of the house. Often a ball was being dribbled in the driveway, or I was thudding to the ground after another attempt at a back handspring or an aerial. None of us got to Carnegie Hall, not that that was ever the goal. However, we were encouraged and expected to practice in the areas where time and money was being invested. I should mention that academics came first, and the dining room table was our study center. We all practiced our academics right there in the heart of the home.
I imagine you have your New Year’s goals or resolutions. Most people think about changes they would like to make. And by this week, the fourth week of the new year, most of us are breaking our resolutions or beginning to waiver on our goals. Our will power dissipates and our resolve peters out. Already. Sigh.
- Break your goals down into manageable pieces. Do you need to study for an exam? Set a timer for 45 minutes to an hour and see what you can get done. Is 25 pushups your goal? Do 5 this week. Add 2 next week. Try 10 the third week. Do you want to get up earlier? Commit to 15 minutes earlier for a week. Then try 30 minutes earlier for a week. Does your serve need improving? Hit a basket of balls once a week.
Most of us get overwhelmed easily. A goal seems too distant. Too large. Complicated. Don’t worry. You are not alone. When I first started writing for publication, I wrote a column every other week. I practiced writing short, catchy pieces. The second and third years I wrote every week. Honestly, I had days when I walked in circles in my house trying to figure out what I was going to write about. But I had set my goal and I had to practice writing.
- Have an accountability partner. Seriously. Sign someone up who is willing to check on you and with whom you are willing to be accountable. Send texts to that person. Yup. Rolled out of bed at 5am as promised. Finished chapter three tonight. Will finish chapter four tomorrow. I didn’t think I could do it but I did go all week long without shopping. You get the idea.
Many of us need a support system when we practice. We need to get some feedback. An accountability partner helps to hold us accountable. We aren’t all born with the will power of an Olympic athlete.
Sometimes God can be an accountability partner for people of faith. Perhaps you can make the promise between you and God. I want to set a time for a daily devotional. This is my solemn promise to the Divine.
We aren’t all born with the will power of an Olympic athlete.
Can you be mindful when you practice? Fully present? As a student of both the violin and piano, I learned that for every time I practiced something incorrectly I needed to practice it correctly 10 times. I don’t know if that is scientifically proven, but all of my teachers sent me the same message. Slow down. Pay attention. Play it correctly. Get it right, no matter how slowly you need to go.
That sets you up for practice success.
But what should you do when you fail? What happens when you swear you are going to get up every morning at 5am to exercise and by Wednesday of the week you just don’t do it? Or if you have decided to phone one friend at least once a week and here we are on week three and you haven’t made one phone call?
First, reexamine your motives and your heart. Why do you REALLY want to do that? Is it really going to help you achieve or change something? What is the motivator for you? Stay clearly focused on the reason you are making a change. “Eyes on the prize,” my gymnastics coach use to say.
Next, go back and read the paragraph on having an accountability partner. I swear that may be the most important part of achieving your goals and practicing. Get someone else to accompany you on this new journey you are on. It can be a friend, a partner, a professional coach, a therapist, or a spiritual director. Don’t be afraid to get that help!
How are you going to get to Carnegie Hall? C’mon, Friends. Let’s meet our goals together.
Amy Sander Montanez, D. Min., LPC, LMFT has a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. Her book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year. Amy is passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, traveling, and learning. www.amysandermontanez.com