When I have set out to accomplish something, it often follows a pattern. I hear about some cool thing I want to do or add to my life. So, without a plan, I just jump in and try to insert the new thing into my life. I go at it enthusiastically for a few days, or even maybe a couple of weeks, and before long, the new item falls by the wayside.
It might sound so simple to add a hobby or activity to one's experience, but to truly incorporate a new activity into one's life, there has to be some planning and sacrifice. There is a reason that these attempts to add special enrichment to one's life fall by the wayside. So much more is involved than just the mere participation in the activity itself.
In order to develop myself as a singer, I cannot leave whether I'm going to practice up to chance. I cannot leave whether I'm going to learn the words to the song up to chance. I cannot leave my health or energy levels up to chance. I cannot leave all the little tasks that surround it up to chance. I have to arrange my life so that there is a place for my singing, or any other endeavor.
My sister, who is an avid runner, and is training to improve her marathon speed wrote me an e-mail that explains how her discipline shapes other parts of her life:
She states: "when you're training for something this big you'll notice that it kind of takes over every aspect of your life. It's not just finding the time to do the actual running, there's so much more involved"
As an example, she goes on to explain the different areas of life that must be tended to besides the actual practice of her discipline, her sport, her hobby:
"Sleep - I usually get about 6-8 hours of sleep a night. I'm trying to be good and get at least 7.5-8 so there's another hour or two of my day gone (and "wasted" on sleeping).
Food - This takes effort to have the food you need always in the house. It also takes time to prepare snacks and pack them up for work (I usually buy my lunch). Also making proper dinners instead of sliding by on popcorn or cheese and crackers once in a while.
Strength training - I'm trying to add this to my training schedule so I fit this in whenever I can so even though I've already gotten up and run in the morning. I do this at night when I get home, eating into my free time.
Stretching - I'm trying to be better about this too to the point where I'll take the time to do it in the morning after I run, and sometimes this means missing my bus and catching the next one which means I get into work later which means I have to stay a little later which again, eats into the little time I have at night to begin with.
Hydrating - I have to make a conscious effort to drink enough water during the day. I try to have a water bottle at my desk and keep it filled and keep drinking throughout the day.
Misc - I went to a concert the other night ... This is a band that makes you work hard jumping around, dancing all through the concert. All the women there are dressed all cute and with their pretty summer footwear showing off their fancy pedicures. Well, I'm feeling frumpy because I'm wearing my running shoes because I don't want to risk getting injured because what a waste to put in all this training and sacrifice only to throw it all down the drain because I wanted to look cutesy for a night. It's just another example of how the race is always on my mind and just one more aspect of my life that it affects."
These areas of life are all interconnected, and a balance must be set up within these areas in order to make a discipline work.
When I first signed up to take Kung Fu class, my Sifu recommended setting goals for one's self. The first goal I made, the one I concentrated on for the first 6 months, was merely making it to class 3 times a week. That was it. Just to fit the class into my schedule and not leave up to chance whether I would get there or not was enough to begin with. Before I could get down to the job of working on Kung Fu, this task had to be accomplished. Before I got to the "fun" stuff, I had to do this work and prep.
So too, I had to carve and shape my life to incorporate my singing, and all aspects that affected my singing. One would usually not expect an "amateur" to go to these lengths, but the reality is that if a person wants to achieve goals with a "hobby" there has to be commitment to it. Goals cannot be accomplished without some sacrificing. But a lack of "success" with achieving a beautiful free voice led to the realization that there was going to have be more of a commitment if I wanted to experience results.
I have learned that setting thing up properly, and making the time commitment and the sacrifice are the biggest components to achieving the goal. Even more so than actually learning the craft itself. Once the activity is implanted, scheduled, consistently applied, the greater part of the work of success has been accomplished. Now sit back and watch the routine and discipline that has been set in place make it happen.
My sister talks about this "sacrifice" for her running goals too.
" ... I'm already sacrificing things to get my training in. When I say sacrificing, I'm not talking about giving up a kidney or anything, it's more like turning off the TV early and going to bed so I'm not exhausted for my training run (I get up at 4:45 to run before work - that's tough). It feels like a sacrifice because I really don't have that much time to myself when I get home from work so to go to bed an hour+ earlier than I normally would is a sacrifice of sorts. I also have big runs on the weekends ... and there's lots going on in the summer like barbecues, etc. so I'm also being good passing on that extra beer and drinking water instead to stay hydrated (and to not drink too much beer so I don't feel crappy the next day!) and maybe leaving earlier than some people so I get my rest. I also can't get lazy and skip the weekly trip to the grocery store. ... when you're single you can skip it every now and then and just get by on whatever you have in the house until the next time you go shopping. I don't want to do that now because I'm trying to keep up the healthy eating and bring healthy snacks (fruits, veggies, yogurt) to work so I don't grab something from the vending machine because eating right really makes the running feel that much better."
As I read my sister's e-mail, the process she describes sound familiar to me, because these are exactly some of the steps I've had to take in order to develop and care for my singing voice. It makes me feel a little less "weird" as an amateur to know that there are other people out there who have learned to make the same kind of commitment and sacrifices in order to experience the joys of their other own hobbies, sports, and passions.
(special thanks to my sister for giving me permission to use her e-mail in my blog post)