Updated: Jul 5, 2021
So, you got off track with your music practice. We’ve all been there at some point. Studying music takes a lot of self-discipline and time, and we aren’t robots! The good news is that resets like the one you’re about to take are very necessary in life. What you are experiencing now is a valuable opportunity to look back at your success and patterns, as well as looking towards the future and crafting new systems and habits to live up to your full potential as a musician.
1. Forgive yourself for getting off-track
You’re a human being. You may believe that you need to be 100% productive to be worth something in other people’s eyes. You may believe that falling off track is a great source of shame. This simply isn’t the case. Consider having a reflect on what true success means, what is it that you really want? Is it to be doing work all the time? No? Then it may be time to start letting that narrative go.
The truth is, it’s incredibly difficult to maintain strict patterns for long periods of time, because not only is life unpredictable, but our bodies and their inner ecosystem change on a daily basis. You simply cannot be “on track” for your entire life. In fact, it is inevitable that you will fall off track. Once you accept this, it makes it much easier to forgive yourself, and ultimately get back on track.
2. Expect you will get off track again in future and plan accordingly
Not only does accepting the inevitability of falling off the wagon take off the pressure and shame we may feel, but it can also give us some valuable clues as to how we can adapt our habits and to recover from getting off track more easily.
Be wary of setting too many new habits, or ones that are vastly different from where you are currently. It's noble to want to wake up every morning at 5am, meditate, go to the gym and then learn a new piece, but plans like this cater to a version of you where you are feeling your absolute best.
But the reality is, you aren't going to feel your best every day. Instead, create your plans around what realistically you can do in a day, and actually aim just below. You’ll be able to remain much more consistent this way.
3. Reflecting on your big "why"
Your big "why" is the reason why you are pursuing music in the first place. Just the thought of your big why, this end goal or big picture, may be enough to motivate you to get back on track, but what’s even more valuable about this is that we can break our why down into our goals, our goals into systems, and our systems into simple habits.
You may like to think of your why as the legacy you would like to leave when you are no longer here. How would you like to be remembered? What contribution do you want to make? If you want some more prompts to find out your big "why", you can find some in my free eBook Singing with Confidence.
4. Refining goals
Start with your long-term goals, your lifetime achievements, and aim as high as you want! From here, you can start to break these big goals down into smaller and smaller goals.
You can think of this as:
- What could I achieve 5 years from now that would align with my life’s work?
- What about one year?
- Next month?
Aim to refine your goals into the essentials. Don’t get distracted by extras that might be nice to include, but don’t ultimately help lead you in the direction that you want to go. For this you can reflect on your goals in reward potential. For example, things like learning new languages or new instruments take a lot of time and and a lot of effort. Before embarking on a big new goal like this, examine with how it aligns with your big picture. What is this goal’s reward potential? Is it something that would be a pleasant way to pass the time, could it be a distraction from a more efficient way to use your time, or is this a worthwhile thing to pursue?
When you are considering your essential goals, it may not just be revolving around music. You may want to divide goals into your health, your work life and your personal life. Narrow down your focus to one, maximum two, goals per section.
5. Review the past
Revisit your previous goals, the ones you made as New Years resolutions, a vision board, a journal, or some other means. Looking at this list of your goals, separate them into goals you feel are on track with, or that you’ve already achieved, and goals you feel behind on, or have completely fallen off track with.
With the first column, question why you are on track here. Perhaps you’ve set up a series of great habits which has turned into an efficient system for your workflow, perhaps you were in touch with your why, there was a deadline, or there was a reward you set for yourself for getting it done.
For these goals you’re still working towards, question why these things haven’t worked. It usually comes down to a few reasons:
a) something big and completely unexpected got in the way,
b) your priorities changed and maybe that goal wasn’t so important anymore and
c) your systems need a bit of tweaking.
It's totally ok to have let a few things slide over time. The important thing is that you’re showing consistency and strength by addressing that you have fallen off track this time but you’re willing to adapt your life to work towards what’s important to you.
You aren't lazy, there's no flaw in your character. Instead, question why you are procrastinating. If you need help with that, I made a video about it which you can watch here.
When you question the inner workings of why you have or haven't achieved your goals, you are breaking the goals down into your systems. Systems are basically just a group of habits that you perform together, and these are completely within our control.
6. Make it easy and fun
Now we have established our goals and examined our systems, let's go level deeper and look at habits. Rule number one of habits is to make them easy. You can expect a blog post on this very soon.
Much like I mentioned in point 2, you need to set habits that you can achieve day in, day out. Remember how you feel on an average day, and them aim just below. This ensures you can stick with it. When you're used to your habit, you can slowly add more. Whilst your systems are over-reaching, your habits are very small and specific.
As an example, you find yourself forgetting to practice and then resign yourself because it's become too late at night to sing. You adapt this system by changing a habit. This could be setting an alarm reminder, or bundling it with an ingrained habit (i.e. get lunch after you practice)
7. Visualise and feel
You now have a plan in place to get back on track! Take a moment now, with your eyes closed, to imagine how it feels to achieve your goal. How is the news broken to you? Are you taking a bow on stage? What can you hear around you? Is there a smile on your face? Take a moment to enjoy this feeling. You’re there. You’re making concrete steps towards this reality.
Next up, stand in the shoes of your best friend, or a close family member. Write down, from their perspective, WHY you deserve the joy you are feeling now, the success of this achievement.
Because guess what, you do deserve this <3
8. Time is abstract
Tuesday is just as magic Monday.
These time markers mean absolutely nothing to your progress. If you feel motivated today, act today. There is no point in waiting until tomorrow. Life isn’t neat and linear and it makes no sense to leave your self-improvement journey to the roman calendar. Starting is within your realm of control, resist the urge to put things off just because they look nicer in your calendar.
If you create a plan to get back on track, but then say you’ll start next week, pay attention if there a little voice of an inner saboteur in your head that says quietly says “ I won’t really start next week.”.
The easy fix to this: make it so easy to start that you can do it today. Even if that means doing three lip-trills. Set your first habit as so tiny it would make no sense to leave something that easy to Monday, and even more importantly, you are building trust with yourself.
9. This is an opportunity to learn
Hopefully by now you’ve accepted the inevitably of falling off the wagon, and you feel a bit more at peace with yourself for getting off track this time. You’ve learned how to examine the systems surrounding your goals and how to adapt these systems to be more efficient. This process is fluid, each day is going to be different. So take this opportunity to learn about yourself and what works for you. When you embrace imperfection and understand any inevitable failures are lessons and nothing bad or shameful, you free yourself up emotionally. And every step of the way you are adjusting and optimising your process. You can only do this and take stock of what doesn’t work when you have a set back. So don’t fret, you’re bouncing back even better than ever.
This week's video
If you feel motivated to make a plan, it's the perfect time! Motivation is fleeting, which you definitely know about first-hand if you felt stuck or off-track enough to click this article. Start small enough that you can take action now, and feel your momentum build. Good luck!
Singing for Self-Care