Formulating and then actually articulating and carrying out New Years resolutions you consider believable and worthy of your time, energy and money, are most times just frivolous wishes and dreams which quickly fade away after the first few days and weeks of the new year.
How would it be for you if you made even just one New Years Resolution that you knew in your heart of hearts you could achieve for sure during the coming year; something that if carried out and applied daily, will up your level of confidence forever. It would take discipline and tenacity on your part, because you would have to keep your resolution in the forefront of your mind, heart and spirit as you went through each day of the next year. But when 2010 comes along, and that will happen quicker than you realize, you will have given yourself the amazing gift of growth and purpose. This in turn will encourage you to confidently continue to shape and mold how you choose to live your life and run your career.
“Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.”
In my own experience, I have discovered that there are four basic building blocks that form the intrinsic, stable foundation on which one builds everything of value. Resolve this year of 2009 to incorporate one, two, three or all four suggestions into your daily life and let me know throughout this process how and what has changed for you. Happy New Year!
“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion . . . It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
YOU ARE ENOUGH
How many times have you been at an audition, a networking event, out with friends or even out on a date where you thought you had to ramp up your star power and be over the top? You felt that just being you wasn’t enough and what others were expecting? They wanted to see the over the top, confident, opera star so you kicked your WOW factor into high gear and felt like you were playing the winning role. It helped make you feel confident, powerful and in control but still you didn’t win the competition, get the job or make the right kind of lasting impression on others.
I often tell my own students that just being yourself is enough. No matter what you are doing, you are enough if you are honest about being just yourself. No facades or trying to impress. Just being honest, sincere, and present able to engage in meaningful dialogue whether through music or conversation and also able to listen to what others have to say without getting into your own head already forming an answer. We are after all, humans being not just human beings. You don’t have to ramp up your personality and performance into high gear. You will do your best when you are just you. Allowing yourself to get comfortable with letting that happen takes some serious alone time, if you are into it perhaps meditation and a serious talk with “the Brat”.
It’s amazing when you start realizing that feeling still, peaceful and gentle within creates more star power than all the “razzle-dazzle” you could possibly create on the outside. If you look at those people you admire most, they are usually centered, congruent and at peace within which makes them confident, present and empowered on the outside without exerting any effort
Have you had the privilege of seeing a live performance where you were so drawn into the story that when the curtain came down and the lights came up you almost felt embarrassed about being caught watching something so intimate and personal it felt like you had been looking through a one way mirror into someone else’s very personal space without them knowing about it? Is that the kind of performer you aspire to? What is it that they are doing that you would like to model? Have you been with a group of friends and been able to recognize each one for what they contribute to the synergy of the group or do you feel like you have to play the role of leader? Notice how the energy of the group changes first by doing what you have always done and then trying the opposite position. Which position feels more natural and contributes to the group best. Is there someone who deeply inspires you? Do you ask yourself what is it about them that makes that happen and then try to model that behavior?
Getting used to just being 100 % who you are is a process that will take some time to get used to. It starts with mindful consideration. So, don’t try so hard to be more than you already are. Just be you. You are enough!
“You were placed on this earth to create, not compete! ” ~ Dr. Robert Anthony
COMPETITION VS. COOPERATION
Imagine a world without competition; a world where people are working not against each other but with one another; a world where one person’s success is not dependent on another’s failure and a world where people strive to simply be better, not better than.
Competition, we have always been told, allows us to test our skills under pressure and brings out the best in us even if we are just competing against ourselves. This is the old trial by fire, sink or swim mentality that we have been brought up to believe is the best way to learn.
I want you to take into consideration a new perspective on this subject and here is why. Competition dramatically elevates the difficulty of learning; that means everything from gaining a vocal technique and enjoyment of your performances to vying for your spot in the dynamics of your family. It affects us emotionally and psychologically. At its worst, it greatly increases the chances of someone becoming frustrated and quitting altogether.
Cooperation, on the other hand, emphasizes the fundamental aspects of learning so you start looking at others as partners all working toward the same goal, simultaneously living a purposeful life and performing your craft in partnership with the composer, librettist, colleagues, conductor, stage director, coaches, costume – lighting -set designers, etc. It’s a group effort so you enjoy the fruits of cooperation.
Here’s another thought. How can we expect someone to be able to do something under the pressure of competition before they truly know how to do it? Remember that competition short circuits the learning process. Instead of nurturing talent of any kind, competition creates stress and anxiety because we are taught we need to be faster, better, bigger and smarter than the next guy. I have found that it’s pretty hard to make corrections when pressured to compete against your own or others ability to consistently grasp vocal concepts and put them into practice. For some people competition may squelch your ability and enthusiasm to learn. Try relaxing and cooperating with yourself and others for a change.
“All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talent. ”
~ John F. Kennedy
What you need to understand is that the most important thing you can do is not compete, not even against yourself. Studies have shown that relaxed muscles react faster and we are able to see and access situations more quickly when we are relaxed. And what that means is going to be very different for each person. So stop competing against someone or something and allow yourself to take the time it takes to gain a very solid vocal technique or whatever else you want to accomplish. That usually requires some type of physical and mental coordination (mind-body connection) which is acquired on an individual by individual basis. It requires cooperation between you and those that you learn from. The student and the teacher together make the teaching. Having to work under very strict rules of any kind usually kills our love of learning.
Losing doesn’t mean you are a failure. Winning doesn’t mean you are successful. However when you emphasize cooperation when learning of your skills, winning will take care of itself. There is no wrong or right. Once you have a strong and consistent vocal technique in place, as a singer, you will feel confident when taking your materials to a lyric diction coach, a dramatic coach and also when you are performing because you won’t have to think about trying to impress anyone, but simply enjoy each experience to its fullest extent. Without the pressure of competition, you are able to continually hone your skills and enjoy each performance. When you thrill yourself, everyone else will be thrilled right along with you. Your imagination is free to create on the spot. You get to play and have fun when you perform. You are learning to be in the “zone” each time you open your mouth to sing. You are cooperating with what the composer wrote. When you are in the “zone,” you’re allowing everything to come through the sound of your voice; your musicality, character, and the story and having fun to the point where winning or losing are unimportant. Your self esteem is no longer based on having to win to feel good about yourself. You no longer need to measure your self-worth or doubt your talent and abilities based on competition. Success is no longer defined as victory over someone else. You no longer need to anticipate failure because you are no longer competing with yourself or others. So what will it be for you this next year – Competition or Cooperation?
“We learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. One becomes in some area an athlete of God.”
~ Martha Graham
THE PURPOSE OF PRACTICING
What comes to mind when you hear the word “practice”? What exactly do we do when we practice? And what do you choose to practice everyday? Interesting questions! Practicing is how we learn everything across the board. This same process works whether it involves singing, performing, auditions, emotional buttons getting pushed, learning to listen both on stage and off, and how to behave in differing situations, etc.
Practicing anything also helps create habits, and habits run on auto pilot. Unconsciously we have created many of our present habits from things we learned and practiced as a child. Over the years we have continued to unconsciously reinforce them each time a new experience came up. It didn’t matter if it was about a singing technique, performance or audition fears or unwanted emotional reactions, we weighed the current experience against what the results of our practiced habits have shown us to be our truth in the past and make judgments from that perspective. Without consciously considering each incident, event or experience for its current merits, we instead tend to do what we have always done getting the same results which in can in turn evoke the Brat saying “I told you so” and possibly keeping you stuck where you are in your familiar yet uncomfortable comfort zone.
If you are interested in looking at your unwanted habits from a fresh perspective and want to start practicing some new responses and behaviors, here are a couple of suggestions.
- First you have to discover and recognize what practiced habit you would like to change in all its many forms and hiding places. It could be something personal, social, vocational, job related, etc. And it can skip around from category to category. For instance, if you want to stop getting so emotionally involved when certain of your buttons get pushed whether it is with family, friends, or colleagues, you first have to recognize that it is happening and then discover when, where and how it happens. If you want to change a specific part of your vocal technique, you first have to recognize that it’s happening and then discover when, where and how it happens before you can make a change.
- Then you have to consciously decide what you want to replace the old habit with and start practicing that instead. It’s a matter of being mindful and aware when you get those first twinges of undesired behavior you want to change and consciously replace them by practicing the new behavior each time it occurs.
- It is a scientific fact that this is exactly how learning and change is made; first by discovering something we want to change, then we choose what we want to replace it with, then we practice the new behavior until it becomes the habit and enjoy the fruits of our successful outcomes.
When you can bring anything you don’t like about your behavior to consciousness, you can practice changing it. It is not a one time event and requires much mindful repetitive practice. You really have to consciously practice the new skill over and over again to make it a habit.
“What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.”
~ Alexander Graham Bell
DON’T GIVE YOUR POWER AWAY
Often times when one feels disheartened and worthless, it’s because we have given our power away to someone or something else. We don’t do it on purpose and often times we don’t even know we have done it. The most amazing thing is that once you have recognized you have given your power away, the spell is broken and our spirits lift and we feel more like ourselves again ready to move forward with confidence.
Here are a few ideas as to what, how and why our personal power gets given away.
- Sometimes we have a sort of false confidence not based on what we could do, but on what we thought our competition would do and try to do that instead of believing in our own abilities, creativity and talent.
- We often detect weakness in other or judge them to camouflage our own insecurities. Think about walking down the street and commenting in a negative manner only in your thoughts about someone who is just passing you by that you don’t know at all. We often do it to make us feel better about ourselves.
- In life and in your career the job usually goes to the person who thinks and believes he truly can do it.
- Power shows in the face we present to the world only when it is the same face we show to ourselves.
- When you start having doubts about yourself and your abilities, before you realize it you start using less powerful language and posture. It’s often our body language that gives us away no matter how we try to disguise it. And that’s your pesky mind-body connection working its negative or positive magic. And that choice is up to you.
- Never try to look good by offering or promising more than you can produce.
- Practice discipline even when no one is watching. An example of that would be when you practice vocal technique when no one else is around. Do you pay attention and stop yourself when it is not what you were able to do in your lesson, or do you just go over and over it to just put in the time.
- Take responsibility for your losses and failures and make sure you look for the lessons you can find in them. This helps build your “you are enough” skill.
- Fear is based on ignorance. We tend to fear things in proportion to our own ignorance of them.
- Keep your own power by thinking you are what you want to be and do it often. It doesn’t mean you should ever stop discovering just who you are but by practicing what you have discovered helps stimulate your appetite for more congruent behavior on the inside which allows for more consistent behavior on the outside.
- You don’t have to believe you are “the best”. Just remember that you are a complete person who can handle almost anything when you offer the world exactly who you are.
Don’t let anyone steal your power and don’t ever give it away. Know you have the resources you need to solve your own problems even it that means using your ability to find others whom you respect to help mentor you through them.
“Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”
~ Joshua J. Marine
Ciao for now – Avanti!