Invitation or Nag?

In light of Steve’s recent post on New Year’s Resolutions, I am reminded again of how hard it is for people to change. I’m today’s prime example.

I get angry at myself for my inability to change my bad habits or for failing to create good ones.  And more and more I find that anger doesn’t serve me in creating the changes I want.  Let me explain.

Recently I decided to take piano lessons — again — at the age of 53. To reach the next level in my playing, I need to challenge myself through regular discipline with a teacher. I’ve always worked pretty hard at the piano (I was a music major in college and consider myself a competent “amateur” classical player), but I tend to work up pieces to about a ‘B’ level rather than the kick-butt ‘A’ level that makes playing so deeply satisfying.

This musical journey is the equivalent of a 12-handicap golfer deciding to work toward playing consistently at par.  And as any golfer knows, that requires tremendous dedication.

So now I must change my piano habits. Instead of the three hours a week I’ve been practicing, I must commit to seven hours or more. This is the only way I’ll be able to play that Beethoven Sonata with any level of artistry. It’s the only way I’ll be able to walk into my twice-monthly lessons with confidence and optimism.

And this will require change, damn it.

So here’s what I’m going to do. On the days when, for whatever reason, I’m not able to get my practice time in, I’m going to turn off that critical voice that snipes at me and says, “You undisciplined swine, you didn’t practice today!” This “inner critic” shames me and actually increases the likelihood that I’ll fail again the next day.

Instead, on the days that I do practice well, I’m going to listen to the voice that says with gratitude, “Well done!” This voice of appreciation will encourage me to repeat that success. This is the voice that will entice me away from the Monday Night Football game or the recliner. This is the voice that will act as a caring invitation to change rather than a jarring nag.

I’ll check back with you soon and let you know how it’s going. 

YOUR PATH FORWARD:  For the sake of work-life balance and your own fulfillment, make a commitment to improving at something you’re passionate about.  Schedule as much time, on a weekly basis, as you can afford — there’s no minimum “right” amount of time.  Let a few trusted others know of your commitment to yourself, and ask them to hold you accountable for it in whatever ways are within your — and their — comfort zone.  Then enjoy the process, damnit! — avoid the temptation to beat yourself up when you don’t meet your expectations, and  celebrate your successes.  Let me know how it goes!

About the Author

Jim Hessler
Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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