I was recently called a talented singer.
Five years ago that would sound highly unlikely.
Not because I was a terrible singer (which by the way I don’t believe in (more on that later)), but simply because hardly anyone would have heard me sing. I loved music and would shyly whisper softly or hum to myself. Whenever someone would ask me what I was humming or suggest that I’d sing a song I’d freeze. Out of fear and insecurity.
How did that change? You might wonder.
The answer is practice.
I needed to practice to actually develop my voice, and just as important, I needed to practice feeling the fear and vulnerability when doing something out of my comfort zone and do it anyway.
I began the journey by taking baby steps.
The first pivotal moment was when I burst into tears as I was asked to sing an improvised line in a singing session with only two other people. They held the space so gently, and I managed to sing while letting the emotions pass. Later I joined a choir (after being encouraged by the wonderful leader). It gave me a space to sing with others without really being in the center of attention. I loved it, and I also felt insecure almost every time. Then at some point, I decided I wanted to learn to play an instrument, and after choosing the ukulele and learning a very simple song, I played it in front of a friend with a shaking low voice. I then played for my mom, for my two-year-old niece, for an encouraging friend, and slowly I gained confidence from having played over and over again.
One day I volunteered to lead a song at a mindfulness event with about 20 people. I was shaking when I started strumming and singing, but I went through with it and afterward, I felt elated. Slowly I began to sing in larger groups and joining others in leading different sing-along events.
In between this, I practiced at home. Simply by singing along to songs I like, by doing sound practices in my daily meditation (basically just singing random sounds and playing with the voice while sensing the body), and by playing music by myself.
Now I feel quite confident about singing - and most of all it’s an activity I love to do and that brings me so much joy. That’s not to say I don’t feel insecure from time to time; the voice of fear shows up often, but I’m familiar with it by now and know it’s part of the journey so I just let it be.
You might wonder why I’m sharing this story? I share it because I think there are many things in life where we look at others and believe they have a talent or a skill that’s innate, and that we don’t have it.
We might not allow ourselves to explore disciplines that excite us and that feel new and intimidating because we believe they're not part of our strength or talent.
In reality, we can do most things if we practice consciously.
Additionally, practice doesn’t only relate to a defined skill. In our daily lives, we unconsciously practice a bunch of different behaviors. That’s how our habits are formed.
The things that we do over and over again become our habits.
If we don't know what we do automatically, we might fill our days with unhelpful behaviors. It could be stuff like over-thinking, worrying, procrastinating, talking ourselves into playing small, emotional eating, over-pleasing, overriding personal boundaries, living mindlessly. The more we do it, the better we become at it.
Think about that for a moment.
When we spend some time becoming aware of our behaviors and habits, we can actively choose what we wish to practice.
This is how we shift our habits or introduce new ones.
Just like in the story I shared about my singing, the shift is hardly something that happens overnight.
To introduce a new behavior or gain a skill it takes awareness, practical steps, practice, patience, getting used to feeling discomfort and doing it anyway. It’s a constant work-in-progress, and to succeed I found support and encouragement from others and myself to be extremely helpful.
It might sound like hard work, and yes at times it might feel like this, but at the same time the rewards are many; feeling more empowered, living with intention, the thrill of continuously learning something new, and a greater sense of freedom.
Pretty darn profound rewards if I must say so myself.
So I'd like to invite you to take some time and reflect on what you practice consciously and unconsciously.
Choose one thing you might want to change and introduce some new practices to help reshape that. Choose another thing you’d like to learn or develop, and get clear on some practices that will get you started. Go where inspiration takes you.
The key is to choose a few practices to focus on, I recommend 1-3, otherwise, it's easy to feel overwhelmed or lose focus.
If you feel like sharing, I’d love to hear what you’re going to practice in 2018 let me know in the comments below.
And if you need support to create awareness, gain clarity or define actionable steps I’m more than happy to support you.
Through all of January, I offer 1-1 coaching sessions for only 50 €. Book your next session here, and if in doubt get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.