Nathan got the call that he had made the finals of the Met Auditions which would take place in NYC in April. He immediately thought to himself, “This is a miracle!” and then started worrying that maybe he wasn’t really ready for this level of competition. It then occurred to him that he had actually made winning the Met Auditions one of his goals for 2007. He realized that he was beginning to reap the fruits of his labors.
It all started when Nathan attended a workshop last winter that made him for the first time; realize that he could have the life he had dreamed about. It was up to him and the choices he made, not about wishing or wanting or some outside magic. He was excited because this workshop not only gave him the information that told him what to do, but more importantly, it showed him how to use and apply the tools and skills he had acquired. It was now up to him whether he followed through or not. He knew that what he had been doing up until then wasn’t working. Nathan decided that he would make a commitment to himself for the next year to put into action the information, skills and tools he had just learned. He would, at the end of that year, re-evaluate.
His first surprise came after he had taken the time to set up his office space and create his plan of action to achieve his goals. He found that he was less stressed and was able to focus on accomplishing much more than he ever had before. It gave him a sense of well being because he knew exactly what it was he had to do each day that would bring him closer to his goals. He had been systematically working on this plan of action and accomplishing his weekly “to do” list by carry out the few simple tasks he set for himself each day of the week. He had been using the audition and performance techniques he had learned and it was paying off big time. He didn’t even have to think about it, it was happening on auto pilot now.
“Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.”
~ Abraham J. Heschel
Nathan started looking back over what he had accomplished this past year and realized that making the Met finals wasn’t a miracle, but his consistency in following through each and every day with his plan of action. And instead of feeling worried about this upcoming audition opportunity, he decided to continue being present and continue doing the work. Because of his action, behavior and commitment to really making his dream of being a professional singer into a reality, he not only practiced more, but he actually started practicing smart and did it only when he could be focused. He found an amazing dramatic coach who helped him understand the characters he was studying at a deeper level. He stopped spinning his wheels with trying to study with every important teacher around and had settled on a not so important one with whom he had great rapport. He felt finally he had found a teacher he understood and liked, that could explain in a manner that made sense, the technique of singing. He knew he was on the right track because during rehearsals and after performances this year others had remarked on how much more polished and professional he sounded.
He continued to take that step back from any situation where he felt he was too emotional attached to make a bona fide decision or choice. It gave him a clear, un-clutter, unemotional look at what the real situation was and then he could choose to take action or not. Hadn’t he already taken the action necessary to get him here? And he knew he couldn’t let his mind keep wandering to any kind of an outcome of what this audition could hold for him. He decided to apply the “act as if” theory when thinking of the upcoming audition. It really had worked before so he would continue to do it over and over again. He decided to continue practicing taking just the one next step up the singing career ladder and enjoy the journey.
As you can see, Nathan made a commitment to change himself, his habits and his behavior. He got tired of doing the same old thing that got him nowhere. He got tired of being the little rat in the cage, spinning round and round. He decided to make his dreams come true.
“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves-there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”
~ Joan Didion
How can you start to make some lasting changes that leave you feeling more in control and energized?
First, it’s important to be aware that many times you are so focused on what is wrong with your life, you can’t see how to make things right. Trying to see what could be by being focused on what was, only causes confusion and frustration.
It is IMPORTANT that you CHOOSE where you are going instead of just being pulled along by what you are used to or what is familiar. This is called getting stuck in your comfort zone.
You need to settle your unfinished business and grieve your losses. Then and only then can you replace all of that with, not just the actual people, places and things but more beneficial behaviors, and commitment, which in turn allows you to be more constructive with your time and energy. You will be amazed to see how much time, energy and negative emotions you’ve wasted on destructive and dead end pursuits.
When life is in turmoil or in flux or just not working out, our instinct is to try to bend everything and everyone to our will. We want what we want when we want it. We inject our opinions and our thoughts and the way we think it should be on everyone. Even though we are not happy with our own lives, we try to bend the Universe and everything in it, to our way. When we do this, we are often doing so to keep the focus off ourselves.
We chose to insert ourselves into someone’s life sometimes because it helps us feel better about ourselves. We now have a purpose in our lives; something to accomplish; anything that will keep us from dealing with all of our own hidden agendas and unfinished business. It keeps our focus off of ourselves and it gives “the Brat” something to concentrate on.
“I count him braver who conquers his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is the victory over self.”
Often times we judge those around us by saying something internally to ourselves like, “Why would anyone with that shape wear something like that?” When you catch yourself doing that, follow it with the statement, “So, do you feel better about yourself now?” When I can catch myself using this internal dialogue and it happens more often now than before because I am conscious of it, it makes me laugh because I know it is the truth. It also reminds me that it’s up to me whether I want to waste my time and energy making life into a competition or not. Or whether I want to spend it on learning and using my time, energy, skills and tools on something more constructive that will move me forward as a human, a singer, a teacher, mother, wife, grandmother, etc.
It is hard to change when the old voices in your head, you know, “The Brat”, seem to be confirmed by your being rejected. We begin to doubt our self-confidence and our new positive beliefs. The seeds of self-doubt are sown and if we aren’t careful, they will sprout and grow like the weeds they are. We start believing that the old voices are being validated: that we don’t measure up, that we aren’t good enough, that we should just forget whatever it is we want to believe in, try to be or make our lives better. We think we should just get back where we belong.
“If we are incapable of finding peace in ourselves, it is pointless to search elsewhere.”
~ Francois de la Rochefoucauld
Keep working on your confidence and others will come along who see the vision you see. You might meet people who suggest you adjust things, change things up. Consider this advice. Change what needs to be changed, listen to constructive criticism. But never listen to outright rejection if you are sure of your dream.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Objectively evaluate what it is you are trying to do. Encourage honest feedback from others. If you are a singer and have been told your entire life that you have a beautiful voice then keep singing. If you know you have wowed people with your voice and presence, then keep singing. Our industry is a very objective one. It’s just one persons opinion or taste. Don’t let it stop you.
To my mind, there is a huge difference in taking a chance and taking a risk. Taking a change is throwing caution to the wind and jumping into a situation without having done your homework. When you take a risk you have done the work, the background checking and know where you are jumping and what it is you are jumping into. It is true that even when you have the facts, are starting anew, or are making a change, you still have to brazenly and boldly plunge head into whatever it is even when you are scared to death. If you can apply the “act as if” theory, it will feel a little less reckless to be fearless. To change your behavior, you have to think about what you want to be and how you want to act and then “act as if” you’re already there. In business they tell you that if you want to be promoted, one thing to do is to start dressing for the next level. You not only want to impress upon others that you are already at that level, but you, yourself, need to act your way into that mindset.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Know that the only thing you can truly change is YOU. One of the hallmarks of a healthy life is knowing what you can and cannot change, what you should and should not change and what is and isn’t yours to change. This is a process that requires living your life in the present moment with courage and inspiration. It’s all about the journey, not reaching this or that goal. Achieving each goal is only the springboard to moving successfully toward the future.
If the Beatles had listened to Decca Records and packed up and stopped playing music because they were told their sound was not appealing, the world would be a poorer place. Decca did not have vision. Decca told the Beatles to get back where they belonged-obscure and living in Liverpool. Decca would have deprived the world of the music and influence of the Beatles.
“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
~ Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962
If Beverly Sills had given up at audition number three or four for City Opera we would never have had her amazing talent to inspire us. It took 9 auditions before she was able to get the job. These are just two examples of artists who dared to believe in themselves, and did the work necessary to create circumstances that others might interpret as a miracle. So believe in yourself, feel the fear and do it anyway as you become the person you believe you were meant to be.