The Bad News: You’re Probably Not Mozart

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We have this thing where we feel like we’ll wake up January 1st and suddenly be able to master a diet or know how to exercise correctly or understand organizing like a pro. But just like playing a musical instrument or learning a sport, unless you’re a prodigy, there’s going to be a learning curve. Don’t shoot for perfection from day 1. Take a longer view and plan to reach your goal by this time next year instead.

Most of the goals we have involve seeing someone ahead of us on the path and thinking, “I’d like to be able to dance, make pottery, write – like they do.” As we get older, we see other people doing things and think, “I bet I could do that” and we think of how we’d do it differently – maybe even better. Then we start to work on it and find out it’s not as easy as they made it look. Often, we give up at that point.

When I was a teen-ager, I thought that if I didn’t do something well within a few tries, I just didn’t have a gift for it and I needed to keep exploring until I found that thing I was magically endowed to master immediately.

People like Mozart are so rare. Most of us will find something we’re passionate about which drives us to practice the craft regardless of talent. And the more we practice, the more likely are to appear talented. People will see the accomplishment but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath, there’s been a ton of work, learning, time, patience, frustration and failure.

This is true about playing the violin, writing a novel or learning to be an accountant. It also applies to dieting, home repairs, cooking more meals at home, being a better parent and a whole lot of our other New Year’s Resolutions. You can commit to learning from day one and I typically suggest clients devote a few hours each week to a goal – divided up however they like – but put on the calendar and kept like an appointment.

If you need inspiration, you can find amazing videos online of people who commit to a goal and work it daily or weekly. Starting off, they’re typically pretty dreadful and they fail miserably at their first attempts. Then they begin to slowly improve and you find yourself cheering for them, knowing how great it feels to begin walking towards your own goals.

As you’re taking a look at your goals for 2018, think long term and create a plan. Then make sure the goals are achievable. Without judging yourself, answer honestly – Do you have all you need in order to get there? Are the goals realistic? Are you willing to do what’s needed to get there? If so, get them on the calendar. If you’re putting it off, it likely means you need to consider different goals or take a different approach.

Remember to refine and adjust as you go. Things change as you learn more. For example, I’ve written a number of books in various genres. At the start of last year, I gave myself the challenge to write a novel. My goal was to have it done and to the editor by the end of the year. And I did have it finished, but not ready for the editor. I ran across a quote in the fall that said, “Your first draft is just you telling the story to yourself.” That was news to me, but it really put things into perspective. And it shifted my expectations.

We’re not successful because we’re prodigies. We’re successful because we’re predisposed to practice our passions. The passion may be born within us, but it’s the practice that makes us proficient.

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