The first of January is an exciting time of year. It’s a time for fresh starts, new beginnings and a spotless optimism for what can be accomplished in the year ahead. As a musician your brain is probably already brimming with ideas for new projects and goals for improving your musicality this year.
Sadly, the typical approach of setting New Year’s Resolutions has some fundamental flaws and if you don’t know about them they can sabotage your chances of success. Read on to find out what these flaws are and how you can overcome them as you set your musical resolutions this year.
If you’ve been training your musical ears you can probably already imagine what it will be like to effortlessly hear the detail in music and understand how it all fits together. You might imagine yourself playing incredible improvised solos, singing a powerful rendition of your favourite song and moving the audience, or rocking out on stage with your band.
The new year promises all this, and the classic way to seize that opportunity is New Year’s Resolutions.
The concept is simple: make a resolution (i.e. a promise to yourself) to do something in your musical life this year.
But there’s a catch… Actually achieving those resolutions rarely turns out to be as easy as setting them! In fact although almost 50% of people set New Year’s Resolutions, less than 10% achieve them every year.
So what can you do to maximise your chances of actually succeeding with your musical new year’s resolutions?
We’re going to look at the most common mistakes people make with new year’s resolutions and what you can do to avoid them and set effective Musical New Year’s Resolutions which will actually bring you success this year.
Note: Before you start out making your resolutions you might benefit from reviewing your past year in music and doing an ear training audit so you know where you’re starting from. And if you’re looking for a fully-fledged guide to setting and achieving your New Years Music Resolutions we’ve got you covered.
The Top 6 New Year’s Resolution Mistakes
Setting a New Year’s Resolution for music is easy. Too easy, in fact. Because if you set the wrong kind of resolution you’re practically ensuring your failure! Instead, make sure you’re aware of the six most common problems with resolutions so that you can set yours more carefully and ensure you actually succeed.
Here are the six main reasons that New Year’s Resolutions fail. See if any of them sound familiar to you.
1. Setting too many goals
The downside of enthusiasm and inspiration is that they can lead us to set too many goals at the start of the year. There may be several areas of music we want to improve on, and our natural instinct is to set a goal for each of them and dive in.
Maybe you want to learn to play chords by ear on guitar and start writing songs and improve your voice and learn some music theory. But all of that on top of your regular instrument practice and your other day-to-day life commitments (school, work, friends, family, diet, exercise, and so on) can quickly become overwhelming.
Unfortunately the human brain isn’t as good at multi-tasking as we would like to believe, especially when it comes to staying disciplined. If we juggle too many new resolutions we suffer decision fatigue.
2. Choosing goals you don’t truly care about
If you’ve set new year’s resolutions in the past which you haven’t kept, I’m willing to bet that at least a few of them failed on this point: they were “nice to have”s rather than “absolutely need”s.
For example, you have a general sense that you’d like to be better at singing in tune, so you throw in a resolution to sing every day. But it doesn’t truly matter to you whether you become a better singer or not, and it isn’t really integrated with your musical life.
Or maybe you feel like you should get better at playing scales so you make a resolution to learn the major and minor scales in every key this year. But you don’t pause to ask why playing scales matters to you or how it will improve your musical life.
The problem with goals you don’t truly care about is that it’s incredibly hard to maintain motivation with them. You might get off to a good start just through your start-of-year enthusiasm, but when that wears off you’re left with little to convince you each day to keep pursuing it. Which then leads to failure, and guilt, and frustration.
3. Setting vague goals
This is a biggie. How many times have you heard someone say their resolution is to “lose weight” or “save money” or “get better at piano” etc.?
These vague goals capture a momentary spark of excitement – but then they do nothing to prepare you to actually succeed in accomplishing that goal.
It’s fine to start from that vague idea of what you want to accomplish, but make sure you don’t leave it at that when you set your new year’s music resolutions
Here are some great examples of how to make vague goals more specific.
4. Not making a plan
Many people begin the year with a good resolution which they’re excited about and then the first couple of weeks seem to go great. They’re doing all kinds of things in pursuit of that resolution and they feel like they’re making progress.
A couple of weeks later: nothing’s happening.
The reason is that they set a resolution without making a plan to accomplish it. So after a frenzy of initial excited activity they’re left with no new ideas, and no clear plan for using the ones they’ve just blitzed through.
The result is that they feel they’ve “tried everything” and not succeeded, so they give up.
This mistake goes hand-in-hand with setting goals which are a “shot in the dark”: you pick something totally unrelated to your current musical life and commit to achieving it, but then give yourself no chance of succeeding because you don’t construct any path from where you are now to where you want to be. The goal remains a distant idea, disconnected to your real musical life.
5. Not having support
Some people keep their new year’s resolutions private. Others broadcast them loud and wide. There are different schools of thought on which approach is better for achieving goals, but one thing everybody agrees on: it helps to have supportive people around you.
You don’t necessarily need to share the details of your resolution if you don’t want to, but if you don’t have friends, family, or a musical community to encourage you along the way, your chances of succeeding in your resolutions are significantly lower.
6. No accountability or tracking
Once you’ve set your resolutions it’s essential to track your progress. This doesn’t need to be detailed or overly formal – it just needs to be regular.
Unfortunately most people don’t do this. They might regularly remind themselves of the resolution itself, but not keep clear track of what they’re actually doing to meet it.
This is a very common mistake in new year’s resolutions. In fact it’s practically inevitable if you’ve fallen for one of the other mistakes and set a goal which is too vague or doesn’t have a plan to go along with it. It’s impossible to track something if you don’t actually know what it is you should track!
When you take instrument lessons you get built-in tracking and accountability, as you see your teacher each week. Unfortunately for ear training and learning the “inner skills” of music, if you̵