Musicians: What you be willing to change?

What would you do to feel 50% happier with yourself and your career? What are the changes you’d be willing to make?

I’m asking because sometimes we think we’re ready to make real change in our careers. But then when it comes down to the nitty gritty of building consistent new habits and getting outside our comfort zones, it can turn out we aren’t ready. Or aren’t willing.

This all came to mind this week because of a client I’ll call Katarina.

She’s a terrific musician and educator and she came to me several months ago because she was at a career crossroads.

A little background: Katarina’s been successful as a faculty member. She’s worked full-time at several institutions over the years. But lately she’d been experiencing what sounded, to me, like burnout.

Her self-esteem was at an all-time low. She was doubting her abilities as a teacher. And she worried she wasn’t measuring up to her colleagues. That she wasn’t delivering her best to her students.

Now it’s not unusual for musicians to go through short-term slumps. We’ve all have had times when we’re less resilient to stress—when we’re feeling depleted and “less than.”

But for Katarina, the slump was bad enough that she was seriously considering leaving her job and transitioning into another field.

What do you tweak to get out of a slump?

In talking with Katarina, it became clear that she wanted more time for herself. That she felt she was spending too much time online, and that she wanted a clear boundary between work and home. She wanted to take better care of herself. And she also wanted to build her network and professional development opportunities.

Now there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. But for change to occur, we need to be in control of how we use our time.

“Small” Adjustments + New Habits + Consistent application = BIG Results

Katarina and I worked on making a few changes to her schedule and her habits. These involved her morning routine, how she ended each day, and being far more intentional about when and how she connected with people online.

Three relatively small adjustments. But I know that even “small” habits aren’t easy to change. That’s why I was so impressed with Katarina. She stuck with it. And these changes made a huge difference.

After just a few months, Katarina reported that she was feeling MUCH better. That she actually felt physically better. And that the difference this made in her life was—”amazing.” She reported that though this is the high stress time of the fall semester, she found she had plenty of energy.

And I could see and hear the difference in her in our Zoom sessions. WOW.

So what actual changes did Katarina make?

#1 She adopted a morning routine.

For Katarina, this meant getting up early to focus on what matters most—her creative projects. Her commitment to herself was to NOT check email or social media until she first invested in her own creativity. This required not using her cell phone as her alarm clock. By investing in herself first each morning, Katarina found that she was better able to deal with any of the stresses that came up later.

#2 She adopted a Gratitude Practice.

Katarina started keeping a gratitude journal. Before turning in for the night she writes down a list of 3-5 good things that happened during the day—whatever she’s genuinely thankful for. And during the day, she also started using the Grateful Flow tool. Having a gratitude practice helps us notice what inspires us, when it is we feel most alive, and what’s actually going well in our lives. That way we can identify the good stuff that we want to “lean into” and do more of.

#3 She scheduled intentional online time

Like many of us, Katarina had become addicted to constantly check email, texts, and social feeds. Her new habit is to reserve specific times of day for online connecting. That way, she doesn’t have to be a slave to her phone, her email, and social platforms.

This habit in particular is hard for many of us. The addiction is real, so it takes real commitment and consistent follow through. Changing habits takes courage.

Katarina was motivated—she really wanted to change her situation, so she stuck with it.

What can you gain from making small changes to your habits?

Katarina’s new habits helped her get back to what she originally loved about her work.

She gained the time and space to hear herself think. And to be more present with others.

This gave her room to notice what was going well, what she was grateful for, as well as what specific changes she wanted to make. This is how we can re-discover a sense of agency.

I’m thrilled that Katarina’s feeling better about herself and her teaching. And her prospects for continued growth as an artist and teacher. But you may wonder . . .

How does all this translate into career “wins”?

When we approach our work—and other people—with positive energy and a consistent commitment, we’re more able to tap into the flow state, the life force.

If you’re saying to yourself, I don’t believe that getting up early, regulating how I use my phone, and deciding to be thankful is going to improve my career . . .

Here’s what I’ve learned through my clients and my own experience:

The biggest transformations all start with small changes.

It’s our consistent small habits that can set us up to connect to larger life forces. It’s as though the universe conspires in our favor once we are taking consistent courageous action.

What do I mean?

When you make a promise to yourself and keep it, it’s important. Whether it’s getting up early, writing in your gratitude journal, or limiting your online networking to specific times of day—or anything else. As psychiatrist and author Phil Stutz writes,

“The most meaningful thing you can do is make a promise to yourself and keep it. You start to feel like you can trust yourself and rely on yourself. This makes everything you do meaningful, in an inner sense. The quest for meaning is the most powerful motivator a human being can experience.”

When you honor your commitment you prove that you can make change happen—for yourself and in the world.

That’s why it’s so inspiring to see my clients’ commitment—and the transformations they experience because of it. I think about how these musicians impact their audiences, their students, and their colleagues—and the ripple effect all this has in the world. That’s why it’s an honor and a privilege to do this work and I am truly grateful for it.

If you’re ready to make real change in your career in the new year, I expect to have a few openings in my Beyond Talent Power Group program. If this seems like a fit, let’s set up a time to talk—I’d love to help you gain real traction in your career in the new year.

Here’s to your forward motion,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

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