Why the saxophone, you may ask? Because waterproof saxophones are cool. And learning to play saxophone while underwater might be one of your goals this year. Maybe.
I know this post won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s time to get my obligatory New Year’s post out of the way (My time zone was apparently messed up on the last post, and WordPress celebrated the New Year long before I did. WordPress was just excited, I suppose).
WordPress: “Happy New Year……FROM THE FUTURE!~”
Last year at this time, I was crossing my fingers and trying every kind of good luck charm I knew to get myself to write more. I said I was going to write every day. I told myself that I would write a book— that I would finally get serious about my passion.
Because that’s the thing. Until you put in the work, a passion is just that— a passion. You get nothing from it. You don’t grow. You’re full of regret and loathing for the people who have done the work. So this time last year, I told myself I would put an end to that vicious cycle.
Here’s the problem: I told myself this, but I had no concrete way of getting things done. While I did kick myself in the bum during the summer hard enough to finally get a full book finished, I wasted five months with the vague idea that I would do something to increase my writing output. But without specifics, I was already sunk.
So. In the spirit of the New Year and goal setting, here are five ways to take your passion (whether that’s writing, music, weightlifting, or writing music while weightlifting 😉 ) and make it serious again.
1) Make a schedule.
Our lives are busy. We drown in small activities. In school work, in work, in driving the kids to school, in small trips to the grocery store. These little activities never seem to amount to much, but in the end they take away from our passions. I’m not saying you should leave little Johnny to figure out his own rides to school, but you have to make time for your passions.
Set aside a small amount of time every day, and devote that time strictly to pursuing that activity. If it’s writing, keep a word count and a commitment. If it’s an instrument, choose how much you want to practice and stick with it. If you don’t make time in your schedule, I guarantee you’ll continue to skimp on that goal, and get nothing worthwhile in return.
It will take sacrifice. Maybe you won’t have as much time to peruse the internet. Or maybe you might have to give up an hour of TV. Even the most busy of us have something in our lives that we could easily give up with no harm done. There is always something wasting our time. Until we make note of it, we don’t even realize how easily we rob ourselves of time, which brings me to my next point:
2) Make your commitment specific.
A vague goal will only flounder and lead to more disappointment. Make your goal numerical in some way. Promise to write 500 words per day, or to do 100 push ups per day. Devote 30 minutes of your time to playing an instrument, or spending time with your family. Whatever your goal is, make sure you can quantify it in some way. Ever notice how chores never get done when you vaguely mention that you plan to clean? It’s only when you specifically start doling out tasks to yourself and your unfortunate house-mates that things get done. Goals are the same way.
3) Make your goal manageable.
That being said, an over-the-top, unrealistic goal just sets you up for failure. Pick something that you can consistently do, and stick with it. 500 words isn’t a lot, but if you stay true to it every day, you can write an entire 100,000 word book in 200 days. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Consistency is much more valuable than some crazy commitment you can’t hope to keep.
Also keep in mind your strengths and weaknesses. A lofty goal is commendable, but I will never be a world-class gymnast no matter how much time I devote to it. Part of goal setting is also accepting yourself for the kinesthetically challenged person you may be (in my case).
4) Create your goal with the end in mind.
There is a reason why video games are so popular. They’ve tapped into one of the most deeply rooted human psychological systems: The reward system. Throw Super Mario off a cliff, and the ensuing music is depressing and irritating all at once. But all those virtual deaths make the reward that much sweeter when you finally rescue Princess Peach from Bowser’s Castle (I’m paraphrasing here. I’m not sure if I ever had the patience or the skill to finish a Super Mario Game in its entirety).
Make your goal something you desperately want to reach. It’s all about dangling the carrot in front of your nose. It’s cheap, but effective. Find your overall goal, and make it something tangible. Make it the completion of an entire book, or sign up for a race at the end of the year. Make it something you have to own up to— something easily visualized.
If you want to take it another step further, make something physical to motivate you. Photoshop your very own book cover, or write the inside cover blurb. Edit your name into a previous race winner’s certificate. Imagine yourself playing in front of an audience of thousands.
It’s silly, but there’s a part of the brain that can’t tell the difference, or at least a part that is willing to fantasize along with you. And by fantasizing in such a realistic way, you give yourself more fuel to get through the lean times.
5) Share your goal with others.
I would be remiss if I were to leave out the effect that friends and family have on your goals. To varying degrees, we all want to impress or build rapport with others. There is always that awkward moment when a friend asks how our New Year’s resolution has been going, and we regretfully inform them that we fell off the wagon weeks ago.
Find a friend or a family member— someone who will be supportive or encouraging— and tell them your goal. Tell them the specifics and the results you expect from said goal. If they share that goal, it’s even better. For the insane or the desperate, the internet is a strong motivator to stay on track.
If you start a website or blog dedicated to your goal and results, it makes it that much more difficult to nosedive in the midst of said goal, because thousands of people are watching you. It seems obvious, and it certainly takes courage, but the extra responsibility may be what drives you to finally write that book, or learn to ride that unicycle.
Unicycle riding aside, I wish everyone luck with their goals in 2013. Feel free to leave your own goals or encouragement to others in the comment box below. Happy New Year!