Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year's Resolutions That Work

We're all basking in the glow of 2014, jazzed by the prospect of new possibilities.  That clean slate we are all given at this time of year is one of the best gifts given to us.  As you're working on your New Year resolutions, in whatever form they take, here are some pointers that have worked for me.

Before we get to the pointers, in the interest of full disclosure, I want you all to know that until 2011, I was rotten at keeping New Year's resolutions.  Absolutely rotten.  A total failure.  I didn't even bother.  What changed?  I found a specific plan that works for me.  The pointers I'm giving you today came from my continued work with that plan.  What's happened since I've been following this plan?  I can unequivocally tell you that my life is more fulfilling.  I am taking chances that I had only previously discussed.  I am working on projects that I would have never attemped before, AND, I am finishing or letting go of projects that have been hanging in my life for too long. Therefore, I would say more I am more successful, and no, I don't have that backwards. Fulfillment is really what I wanted, and probably want you want as well.  The success came from feeling fulfilled, not from chasing success.  Think about that!

Here we go:

Be realistic.  Invariably I set my goals too high.  Thank goodness for my friend, Jean, who patiently reads my new plan every year and then, with laughter in her voice says to me, "Heidi, are you REALLY going to be able to master Russian this year?  How is that going to happen?  Let's see if we can make that goal more realistic."  Jean always helps me face the reality of my life.  Remember, the point is to feel like you've achieved a goal.  Making the goal ridiculously large will only make you feel like a failure.  That doesn't feel good to me.

Be specific. Last year I really wanted to study jazz piano, but I knew I didn't have time to study on a weekly basis for the entire year.  I also know it is important to be consistent with the study of an instrument (gee, how do I know that?!?!).  So, I set my goal to study jazz piano for 1-2 hours every week for 3 months.  Specific AND realistic.  Also, this way, you can try things out and let go of them if you find they aren't really what you thought they would be.  And yes, I did achieve the goal.  In fact, I ended up enjoying it so much, I continued with my study by taking a MOOC on Jazz Improvisation.  I'll tell you more about that experience in a later post.

It's all about you.  Make sure you are the master of your resolutions.  Let's say you want more professional work as an opera singer, so you create a goal of being hired by 5 new opera companies. While I can appreciate the intent of this goal, you're leaving yourself open for failure, as there are too many variables in this resolution that are out of your control.  What if you can't find 5 opera companies doing the repertoire that you sing?  What if you just aren't what they are looking for this year?  Change the resolution to audition for sing for 5 new opera companies and now you're talking.  This is a goal that you are completely responsible for - you have to do the work to get the auditions, you have to prepare for the auditions and you have to sing the auditions.  This is achievable.  But isn't this aiming low, you might ask?  I don't think so.  I think it is making yourself accountable.  Every aspect of the new resolution is in YOUR control, not some wacked-out artistic director.

Tell someone.  In mid-December I started teaching in New York.  I've thought about adding a New York studio off and on throughout my teaching career.  I had to wait for the right time and space to open up in my life.  When I saw the opportunity, I jumped in immediately.  Very unlike me.  As I was driving home from my first day of NYC teaching, the very clear and specific goal that would make this successfully work in my life came to my mind.  I loved the clarity of that moment, BUT, it wasn't until I told my niece the specific goal that it became a reality.  It is now much easier to talk about the new project.  It is real; it is happening and I now have to be accountable, not just to myself but to the people who know about it.  

That's an example of why you need to find someone to whom you can tell your New Year's resolutions.  If you can't find anyone, contact me, and I will find someone for you.  Really.  Up to you.