It’s officially 2018, and you’ve already seen countless articles about new year’s resolutions: goals to make, habits to break, and of course, plenty of stats on how soon you’ll give up.
Will you beat the odds? I’ve always been an avid resolutioneer, but it’s never been easy. Looking back on my list from last year, I can tell you that I successfully hit nine of them, and missed nineteen. Did I set the bar too high?
It sucks to know that I failed at nineteen goals. But the things I did achieve are pretty kickass. Some of the wins? Launching the Estill Voice Model textbook and Voiceprint iPad app. Taking lessons in Alexander Technique, drumming, and improv comedy. Training my first Howl at the Moon rookie to full-time player status in four months. Finally finishing my Estill Master Trainer certification, and presenting at the Estill World Voice Symposium in Quebec City. 2017 was a wild ride!
Psychology Today and Huffington Post have told me that most new year’s resolutions fail because of unrealistic expectations. Call me a dreamer, but I believe in aiming high. Shoot the moon and land among the stars, as the cliché goes. I made 28 resolutions last year and failed most of them. What if I had only made ten?
Instead of lowering expectations, I propose reframing failure.
It’s a concept I first learned from the gym. Fitness fans will be familiar with the term “muscle failure”. It’s the point where your target muscle gets so fatigued that you can’t complete another rep with proper form. At my gym, the trainers liked to call it “muscle success”. You may be tapped out in the moment, but failure today makes you stronger tomorrow.
This is literally true in fitness, since muscle growth is the recovery response to exercise stress. For goal-setting, it can be applied figuratively. Failing a little every day teaches you the lessons you need to move forward. A wrong answer makes the right one easier to remember.
So the first thing that will help you succeed at your resolutions is to look for little opportunities to fail. That means making them measurable. Turn your big goal of “eating healthier” into the task of eating five vegetable servings/day. “Learn guitar” becomes “spend twenty minutes/day working on guitar technique”. Over the year, that adds up to 1825 vegetables, and 121+ hours of guitar practice. Some days, maybe you only get two vegetables in. Maybe you’ll miss a week of guitar practice when you’re on vacation. That’s okay. Love your little failures, look at them closely, and use them to fuel your success in the future.
The other trick I know for winning your resolutions is accountability. And that’s the real reason I’m writing today, and why I’ll keep making new years resolutions as long as I live, even when my success rate is less than 40%.
When I make a resolution, it gives me a chance to fail. When I tell people about it, it makes that risk of failure more real. If my ambition doesn’t get me to my goals, surely my fear of embarrassment will.
I have 29 goals this year, since that’s how old I’ll be in a couple weeks. With you, I’m sharing the five musical resolutions I feel most excited about.
Learn guitar. You thought the example above was just hypothetical. Guitar is easily my weakest instrument. Last year I watched my bandmate/boyfriend’s journey from complete novice to rocking Santana solos (he wrote about it on his blog here). I definitely do not want to work as hard as he did though, so my goals are more humble. Just to practice 20mins/day, and to learn six songs I can lead from guitar.
Mix live covers. The process of home recording intimidates me, but messing around with tracks off the Howl at the Moon sound board has helped me warm up to it. Mixing is the most intriguing part of recording for me, so I’m starting small with stuff I can’t ruin via poor microphone setups or arrangement analysis-paralysis. I think our band sounds pretty good, but I’ll find out for sure when I try to mix four of our songs into decent live recordings.
Record solo album. This is the one 2017 failure I feel most bothered by. Ever since I left my hometown, I’ve been writing up a storm; reflecting on relationships, growing up, and my life story so far. It’s resulted in a dozen songs that I’m really proud of. Last year, I was frustrated by problems I faced in trying to self-produce them, so this year I’ll be teaming up with musicians far smarter than me to bring them to life.
Teach practice groups. Now that I’m officially an Estill Master Trainer, I can teach official Estill Practice Groups for those looking to shape up their Figures. I love teaching group classes, but scheduling them is notoriously difficult. I’ll be hosting four practice groups this year to work out the kinks. The first one in Pittsburgh will start February 3rd.
Write blogs. My friends know I often have more thoughts than my mouth can keep up with. I hope writing blogs like this one will help me tame some of those ideas, so I can avoid repeating myself. Be sure to leave a comment here if you catch me falling behind!
What are your musical resolutions? How will you measure it? Share your goals in a comment below, along with any of your favorite tricks for sticking with them. KM