When the New York ball dropped to signal the end of 2017, I had more to celebrate than a fresh page in my calendar. I had achieved what I thought was impossible: I kept my New Year’s resolution for the entire year. I wanted to make myself a better musician, and I did. Four to five days every week, I sat down at my TAMAHA keyboard, opened the “Soprano Musical Theatre Anthology” or the “First Book of Soprano Solos” and I practiced. A lot. I taught myself 23 vocal songs and 12 piano pieces throughout the course of the year, and expanded my range past the A below middle C – an impressive feat, for a soprano one like me.
But dedicating four hours per week to keep my resolution wasn’t easy. Three weeks into my resolution journey of 2017, I had my doubts. From Honors Algebra 2 homework every night to three-hour rehearsals for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s production of “Dead Man Walking,” it sometimes felt like I didn’t have time to eat a meal with my family, let alone spend an hour in my basement trying to teach myself the words to “Si mes vers avaient des ailes.”
There were days when I wanted to throw my voice books into the wall and watch my fourth “Friends” episode in a row. Yet one year later, I accomplished my goal. Thanks to a few tricks, you can still find me in my basement at my keyboard.
Make your resolution specific
If my resolution had just been “practice more,” I never would have stuck with it all year. When your resolution is loosely-defined, it’s far too easy to skip out on it. “More” means something different to everyone, so if it were one of those days when a bag of Tostitos and Netflix sounds like heaven, I’d probably wind up singing for 10 minutes in the shower instead of spending an hour teaching myself song translations in my basement.
In order to prevent myself from falling into this trap, I gave myself a clear outline: Sit down at my keyboard for at least 30 minutes, four to five times per week, and warm up, sight read, and sing my songs. This transfers over to the more common resolutions too – if your resolution is “save money” or “exercise more,” you’re destined to fail. Instead of “save money” or “exercise more” make it “put 50 percent of every paycheck into my savings account” or “spend 30 minutes working out at the YMCA twice a week,” or whatever might be achievable for you. You can do this with practically any resolution.
Keep track of everything you do for your resolution
I’m convinced that the only reason Snapchat is still on almost every teenager’s phone is because of “streaks.” As I watch that little number grow each day, I become more determined to ensure that I don’t break any of my streaks. Even if you’re resolution isn’t an everyday task, it is motivational to still keep track of the progress you make.
I keep a “Singing Calendar” where I write down every day I practice, how long I sung that day and the songs I worked on. Each week, I need to reach at least four days or I mark my failure with bold letters – I lose my streak. You can apply this to most resolutions too: if you’re trying to eat healthier, keep track of the fruits and veggies you eat in a day. If you’re trying to manage stress, jot down each time you take a twenty minute homework break.
It might seem like a waste of time, but as I scroll through my notes and see hundreds of lines filled with text detailing all the work I’ve already put in, I become even more determined to keep up working at my music.
Don’t give up if you mess up once
When you’re a little kid learning how to ride a bike, if you fall off once, you don’t shrug it off and say “well, I guess I can’t ride a bike.” You keep working at it. But for some reason, as we’ve grown up, we’ve embraced an “all or nothing” attitude. When we’re succeeding, we can ride that high for weeks, but as soon as we hit a speed bump, we give up completely.
New Year’s resolutions are for breaking bad habits; if only we could break our habit of giving up. Missing one week of workouts – or whatever your resolution may be – doesn’t mean you failed and should skip going to the gym for three months in a row. It also doesn’t even mean you have to do twice as much next week. You just have to get back on the treadmill the next day.
Making mistakes is part of being human. Don’t let one or two mess-ups ruin your resolution.
Sticking to my New Year’s resolution was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. But I was able to complete it because I had a specific resolution, worked to keep my streak, and kept going even though I missed a few weeks. And now I feel ready to accomplish my resolution for 2018: actually read four books that aren’t required for school.
New Year’s resolutions are for making us into better people, in one way or another. They test our willpower and present us with unforeseen challenges. But if I – the girl who refused to sing a musical theatre piece for a year because using my chest voice takes more energy than using my head voice – can keep my resolution, so can you.