It's that time of year, meaning we're only three days into it so far, and the talk of goal-setting, words of the year, intentions, and planning are swirling everywhere. Don't get me wrong, I love it when a plan comes together. (Anybody else watch the A-Team as a kid??) And I've spent a fair amount of time in the last two weeks making plans, analyzing what worked and didn't work last year, and setting my goals for the coming year. My word of the year is "Space." So I see the value in spending our mental and emotional capital on these sorts of things.
Something that strikes me is that we set goals for the things we see that have gaps in our lives. We generally don't set goals for things that are going well. (Though if you do, I'd love to hear more about that!) And then sometimes goal-setting can become a continuous loop of self-improvement where we are constantly trying to get to some better self. That can sometimes be exhausting. Surely I'm not alone in thinking that. It's rare that in our driven American culture that we take the time to just be for a while. That's something I'm going to try this year. By that I mean that there will be times during the year that I take a break from working on my goals or keeping my streaks going. I'm going to be for a little bit and see what happens. Truth be told, I think it will be deeply uncomfortable but also very beneficial. My plan is to do that during the weeks I'm on vacation or on holidays when my business is closed.
You see, most of the time I live as a human doing, rather than a human being. I tend to feel much more comfortable with looking at all the things I've checked off the to-do list, or all the things I've produced, and getting my sense of peace or worth from those things. It is really, really, reeeeeally hard for me to stop and be enough. I also suspect I'm not alone in that. Voice teachers tend to be go-getters who serve their clients very well, sometimes to the point that we are serving them better than we are serving ourselves. I've certainly been guilty of that. It's another way to be a human doing, by over-extending ourselves in our businesses instead of relying on knowing that we are good enough to be ourselves.
I see the evidence of that when I start to set goals for myself based on where I feel icky in my life, and I try to get rid of the ickiness by doing better than I did before. I try to change myself from the outside in. Sometimes that can work, but very often it's a long, hard, lonely process. Perhaps switching it around and changing from the inside out will be more successful.
As an example, consider what you do if you have a voice student who is highly negative with herself. She may be overly critical and fearful of performing in front of others for fear of being judged. We can certainly work on technique so that her singing is reliable and predictable, but that negativity can be a huge hindrance to progress. If she cannot hear or feel the things that are going right, it's hard for her to know what in her singing she wants to keep and build upon. If all she is ever doing with you is fixing the errors, it will be a never ending whack-a-mole in lessons, because she'll never stop making mistakes. That kind of negativity is self-defeating. Because you're a caring voice teacher as well as a wonderful technician, you're going to address her mindset. Changing her mindset, going from the inside out, can positively affect her singing.
We know this because many of us have lived through similar journeys. We have to learn at some point, that being a singer includes accepting the wild and wonderful imperfections that make us human. Trying to always do the right thing in every situation can shut off the adventure of singing. We must be singers, and not simply do the act of singing.
I think we can model this for our clients by having good boundaries between work and rest, by keeping a playful exploratory attitude in the studio, and by being open and sharing what we are working on in our own performance and work goals. And when it's time to stop doing things, we stop. And then we be.
As you are considering your goals for yourself and your studio this year, I encourage you to consider how you can change some of the doing to being, and how you can model that change to your clients. We teach much more than just singing, after all. And then when you get an idea about it, let me know! I'd love to hear how you expect this to play out in your life and business. I think it's worth the time to think deeply about it.
My very best wishes for a Happy New Year, with a gentle start full of softness and kindness. If there are any questions you have about pedagogy or voice science, I'm here to help! You can book a private Vocal Ped Party at the link below.