What happens to your mindset when you think about trying to incorporate the tasks and goals that need to be done for your singing career into your everyday schedule? Do you feel frustrated, overtired, overworked, overstretched emotionally, and overwhelmed? Do you beat yourself up a little and look only at your weaknesses and failings? Or do you work from your strengths?
Often we concentrate on and define and measure our progress and success and ourselves by what goes on in our external world rather than our internal world. We are programmed to identify ourselves mostly with things that are physical, like our appearance, our job, our perceived status in life and the singing community, and our material possessions. We tend to pay more attention to the public “I” and have the profound sense that the inner “I” is frequently unfulfilled. That public “I” is just part of who we are. We are also the intuitive, creative spirit that lives inside our bodies.
So, how do you manage the stress and lack of time and energy one needs – usually at the end of a long 8 hour day at a “survival job”? How can you create the concentration and motivation needed to practice, be present and focused at lessons and coachings, learn new music, do translations, implement your business plan and pursue your career goals? There is only so much time and energy to go around that is true, so how you perceive and use that time and energy is of paramount importance. Below are some of my ideas on how to let go of the stress of your public “I” and switch gears to focus on the needs of your inner self.
“My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”
~ Oprah Winfrey
1. First and foremost it is learning to be present and in the moment. That’s of course an easy thing to say and a difficult task to master. My question to you is. “Do you have a plan in place to work on this”? If not, here are some practical ideas to try.
Make the time to sit with your inner self on a regular basis. This can be done in many ways including practicing yoga, breathing, meditation, prayer, introspection, being in nature. It is more powerful than you can imagine. It allows, as Goethe says, the universe to work through you.
If you don’t know where to start, here is my suggestion. You might want to set a timer for 10 minutes to start and work up to 30 minutes each morning and/or evening doing this exercise. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet on the floor and your hands resting in your lap. Your head should be erect – like dancers. You can find this posture by pulling up on the hair on the top back part of your head. You will feel you head and neck come to a comfortable position of alignment. Close your eyes. Say these words to yourself, “Let the mind and body come to rest”. Then start by simply feeling the feet on the floor. When that is complete, feel the body in the chair. Feel the clothing against the skin. Next feel the air on the hands and face. Lastly, let the listening go out to include all the sounds in the room and beyond. Don’t name anything, just listen and rest here. If thoughts come into your head let them come and go like soft, white, puffy clouds in the sky and return to listening and resting.
Learn how to end one project completely before starting another. How often do you find yourself stuck in your mind on the task or activity you just finished while trying to move on to your next task, or activity? Or is your mind busy thinking or worrying about what might be coming up in the future while trying to complete a project in the present? It happens to all of us. Here’s my suggestion for changing that. When you are through with one activity, pause for a moment physically, close your eyes, take a big breath through the nose and exhale deeply through your mouth. Now let the mind come to rest for just a minute. When you open your eyes you will be fully present and ready for the next task or event.
A quick method for me to get into my right brain before practicing or singing is to spread my feet about 2 ft. apart and rock from left to right back and forth gently for a few minutes.
Learn to focus completely on the activity at hand. As I often tell my voice students, you can either think or you can sing. You can’t do them both at the same time. You can be mindful of what you have just discussed or worked on, but then you have to just do it. It’s not easy. One way to focus is to let your full attention rest where the activity is happening – where the working surfaces meet. For example, concentrate on fingers contacting the computer keyboard, your breath meeting your vocal chords, a vacuum cleaner moving along a floor, your mouth embracing the food you’re eating, etc. You’ll be surprised how challenging it can be. But by doing this you allow yourself to completely focus on just one thing at a time by doing the task completely and thoroughly with all of your attention. Do just that and your mind will come to rest. You can’t expect yourself to be the best performer you can be if you are thinking about all the other things you have to do or should be doing. Try this exercise for just one day and see if you can follow it for just that one day.
“The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”
~ Harry Emerson Fosdick
2. Make a Plan of Action. I think one of the easiest and most beneficial things you can do to gain more energy and have better use of your time is to have a strategy for creating goals and then implementing them with a plan of action, the tactics you plan to use to make it all happen step by step.
“Discouragement is simply the despair of wounded self-love.”
~ Francois De Fenelon
3. Accept the state of your being or change it. Listen to your physical body. If you truly feel too tired to practice physically, practice in imagination. Think about singing and your throat, voice box, breathing, etc will go through the physicality and emotional action of singing without you ever having made a sound. We go through this routine whenever we hear another singer, good or bad. I’m sure you have experiences this many times. That is the ever present mind-body connection.
You might also try giving yourself ten minutes to change gears by redirecting your physical energy at the end of a long day. I challenge you to listen to your favorite dance music and dance until you work up lather and then not be energized, awake and ready to go, by the time the song ends. It’s a good mood changer as well.
Don’t forget to eat something nutritional, if you are hungry.
Another suggestion is to make sure you have appropriate lighting in your work and practice areas. If the light is not bright enough, it makes you even more tired than you already are. Get some more lights just for these work spaces. You don’t have to have them all on all the time, just for the periods of time spent working on the business aspects of your singing career, practicing, and studying music. Make sure the light bulbs are the new bright outdoor light and make them at least 100 watts each.
“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”
~ Reggie Leach
There are numerous ways to conquer stress and live your dream. No matter how you choose to do any and all of this, it takes being in the present moment, focus, passion, imagination, discipline, sacrifice and often leaving your comfort zone. Start by making a commitment and then just taking the first step. It is a process and a journey. You have to walk before you can run.
Next time more about the “Comfort Zone” and it’s traps.
I love hearing from all of you. If you have a subject you would like me to cover, email me at [email protected]