Over the last decade, I've read dozens of articles talking about how to develop “stick-to-itiveness.” I processed the same information over and over again. I made lists of what I wanted to learn, habits I wanted to break, and steps I needed to take.
I was never able to make anything stick for longer than a month. I was your typical New Years Resolution maker, breaking my diet come February (or earlier), except the pattern continued all year for me. I’d make a new resolution and then give up my running routine, shop compulsively, procrastinate studying, stay up later than I meant to—you name it, I broke it.
So what was the problem? I knew exactly what I needed to do, so why couldn’t I do it? What is the difference between reading an article and putting it into action? Why was I successful at learning the violin when I had been so ineffective before, and what was it that finally made fitness stick?
The three most important keys I attribute to my success were: having a great teacher or coach, having a network of peers that were learning the same skill, and turning the daily practice into a habit.
The guidance of an experienced figure—whether it’s a friend or family member, a therapist, a teacher, a coach, a trainer, whoever—that supports you and believes that you are going to succeed is an incredible asset. It’s natural to lose faith along the way that you are going to reach your goals, to “fall off the horse” (or the wagon) in various ways. Having an outsider to learn from, and to maintain perspective and encourage you is a reliable aid to pick up and keep going when you hit a wall.
A group of friends, students, or even complete strangers to learn with is just as important as having a single figure to look to. Although I was taking private lessons, I relied on other violin students in my teacher’s studio for inspiration. I watched what to do and what not to do. We shared everything from rants and complaints to achievements small and large—and from them I also gained a sense of community. Talking about technique, books, what we wanted to play, concerts we went to, and our favorite violinists, all kept my excitement and interest piqued.
A great teacher and a great network are still useless if you think of practicing your skill as an item on your to-do list. It must become a habit. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Take a shower? Make coffee? It must become as natural as that. Every day, no matter how busy I am, I take 20-30 minutes after I eat lunch to practice violin. It may not sound like much, but the time adds up, and it's meaningful to me because I know I'm practicing every day.
I plan ahead for practice in my other hobbies and activities as well. When I drive to work, I practice speaking Cantonese with an audiobook series. Four days a week that I pre-select, I go to the gym. If I absolutely can’t make it in the morning, I go in the afternoon or early evening. If I have evening plans, I know I have to postpone or reschedule them. (Not wanting to reschedule is a great motivator for getting my butt out of bed.)
It's easy to read about what I did. It's easy to read about goal-setting, scheduling, and taking action. But we're not used to holding ourselves accountable, so we rarely set our plans in motion until we're fed up with our inaction. And that's okay. Because unless we really, truly want something, we're not going to stick to it beyond the first few weeks. So reading this won't help you change if you're not ready.
What do you want? And are you ready to finally start working for it? Those are questions that no article can answer or influence. You'll notice in my top three reasons I believe I was successful at the violin and in fitness, nowhere did I mention, "Because I read motivating and informative blog posts!" As a fitness coach, beyond providing diet and exercise programs, I ask and answer questions, I foster a supportive group, and I teach people how to develop habits, systems, rituals.
And for you, I write. So when you decide that you're really ready to get on track toward your goals, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's get started together.