Here’s a Nudge from the Groundhog, and My Personal Tips on How to Turn Goals into Accomplishments

Happy February! 
Here we are, one month into the New Year and I have a question for you: What do you want to become good at in 2019?

Just a few days ago in this neck-of-the-woods, our local groundhog, Shubenacadie Sam, made his appearance and then retreated for some weeks to come. I think many of us feel a little bit like groundhogs at this time of the year, not yet wanting to fully come out of our snug surroundings. Sam still has important things to take care of indoors, and so do we. It’s the perfect time to stay inside, light a few candles, or maybe the fire, and practice. I know many of you play an instrument and and/or take lessons (hopefully the cello, but nobody’s perfect- lol!) but if not, there is certainly some equivalent in your life, that is, something challenging you dream of doing really well. I encourage you to keep your goal in mind and to come back to it every day- if you do this I KNOW you will succeed!

Scroll down to read my 9 Rules for Super-Effective Practice of Anything:

But first… I love this photo.
I took it on a beautiful afternoon while walking in my neighbourhood. The guy with the hockey stick looked so graceful as he swooped around, practicing his skills. It is another reminder to myself and all of you how beautiful and how much fun skill practice, and even solitary practice, can be!

Here are my 9 Rules for Super-Effective Practice of Anything

Rule # 1: Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew. You need to create small goals in order to arrive at your big ones. If you try to accomplish too much at once, chances are you will be frightened or fatigued into discouragement.
.Rule #2: Always have a focus. Choose something very specific you are going to do this week so that you can complete a tangible link in your chain of success. For example, If your goal is to learn to speak Portuguese, then decide that you are going to memorize a specific number of words, or get through chapter 6 of your audio training, or whatever it might be. If it’s a cello goal, perhaps once and for all you are going to nail playing those dotted rhythms to a metronome, or figure out that tricky passage.

Rule #3: Five minutes is WAAAAAAAAAAAY Better Than Zero minutes. Five minutes can be a LOT, especially if you apply my other rules! 😉 

Rule #4: Make plans. Put it in your calendar. Practice doesn’t have to be planned for a specific time if you don’t want it to. Just make sure you make it clear to yourself your intention to do those five focused minutes before your head hits the pillow every day. Just the act of writing it down makes you substantially more likely to follow through. This has even been scientifically proven. Yes, by real scientists. Google it.

Rule #5: There is a difference between practice and play. Turn your problems into the building blocks of your ability. Anything you encounter that you don’t yet understand or that could be improved has the potential to become another brick in the wall of your castle of excellence. Those five minutes spent on your personal puzzles is worth far more than hours many people spend skirting around them! You can do it, face your practice problems!!! It won’t take long and you won’t regret it.

Rule #6: There is a difference between practice and play. Wait, is this the same rule as #5? Yes and no. Rule number 5 is so important. But play is important too! Master rule #5. And once you have that, don’t forget to put aside a few minutes to let loose, play around and be creative. Enjoy the fruits of your labour and also reap the benefits of approaching your work from a state of fascination and fun. This will only make you a better player and it is its own very important kind of practice.

Rule #7: Do it Your Way. Once you have your focus figured out, find ways that you enjoy learning the material and that make sense to you. There is no one way to learn something so be creative, have fun, and if you are learning from someone else, you can think about how you might interpret their suggestions and teachings in a way that is meaningful to you.

Rule #8: Treat yourself and the process with respect. As you can see from the rules above, there are lots of things that can get in the way of our growth in the learning process. Do not add yourself to that list! Do not believe that you are the only one who struggles, and do not believe any other negative thought that might sneak across your mind. Do NOT compare yourself to those imaginary superstars who have no problems and who do not exist either! I have never encountered anyone who did not have to apply themselves to learning. You are no different. Keep your patience and keep remembering what’s fun about your work- your highest potential for growth lies in your attitude. Your highest potential for growth lies in your attitude. Your highest potential for growth lies in your attitude. Yeah, I know I said it three times, I am glad you noticed 🙂

Rule #9: Do not freak out if you fall off the wagon. We are not meant to stay on the wagon at all times. In fact, if you are determined to sit on that wagon for too long, your bones will get achy and your arse will get sore. Take a breath and a stretch, give yourself a break and you will want to get back on an enjoy the ride sooner than later!

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