Musicians: Hit the re-set button with gratitude

Ah—the holidays! Between projects, teaching, and performances, you may already be frantic. If you’re like most musicians, you may be trying to cross off to-do list items before getting to the travel and family (and more stress). It’s a good thing you can hit the re-set button.

Between the end of the semester and holiday onslaught, a teaching colleague used to call this period the bobsled to hell. It’s the time of year when I always wanted to hit the “pause” button so I could re-group, de-stress, and dial into my best self.

So in case you’re feeling overwhelmed or over-stressed, here’s the solution for musicians—how to hit the re-set button.

Take a moment right now and list what you are grateful for

It only takes a minute to think—or better yet, to say out loud—what specifically you’re grateful for. At this moment, I’m grateful to have this time to think about what ultimately matters and to be writing to you.

I’m also thankful for the recording of the Brahms sextet I heard this morning, the walk I took, and the lemon tea I drank. I’m grateful for the recent books I’ve read that have pushed me further along the path to becoming the person I intend to be. And I’m thankful for my clients and colleagues who have taught me so much—and in the process, expanded my life.

Try doing Grateful Flow now. Even Woody Allen does a version of this here in Manhattan:

Gratitude—it’s not for just one day a year

Here’s the deal. This really IS a re-set button. A way to get yourself out of overwhelm. Out of a slump of negative thinking. Out of a maze of worry and self-defeat.

Yep, it’s gratitude. Having a regular practice can bring you back to a positive frame of mind and from there, you get to choose how to move ahead. And over time, with regular practice, you’ll lower your overall stress level.

But of course, gratitude by itself won’t magically solve everything. This isn’t “believe in your dream and miracles happen.”

Being thankful alone won’t get you more performances or students, and won’t take away the work you need to do to grow your career. But it CAN get you in a frame of mind to deal positively with the challenges in front of you. It can shift you out of inertia, fear, or resentment, so you can take action.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be fighting an uphill battle of doing my work in high-stress mode. I want to be coming from a place of positive problem-solving. Gratitude is the solution.

Here’s how the re-set button works

Gratitude can help you remember to bring your best self forward. And that can change how you interact with others. How you network, interview, audition, practice, and perform. Being grateful reminds us to be human. To park our egos at the curb and be kinder towards ourselves and our colleagues.

Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t about being a pushover. Being kind and compassionate doesn’t mean being a doormat. News flash: Music is a competitive profession. So . . .

Get clear about who you want to be

Have clear boundaries that reflect the respect you have for yourself, for others, and for the profession. You can be a clear and direct professional, a kind and compassionate pro, and someone others want to work with.

Or you can be competitive and distrusting, and an eventually, isolated musician. You have a choice.

And yes, you have to work at it.

For help, read The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci. And check out my favorite Brené Brown video: 6 minutes on boundaries.

And here are two other books I’ve just read that packed a wallop. Both of these are terrific for helping us re-think how we treat ourselves and our colleagues. Check out Jerry Colonna’s Reboot (and thank you, El, for putting me on to this!) and Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness. Both are excellent.

As we head into the holiday season, I’m wishing that you’ll take the time to practice gratitude. And in that space, ask yourself what do you want to make manifest in the new year.

To gain more career insights and inspiration, join our supportive community, our FREE Musicians Making It Facebook group. We’d love to have you!

Here’s to your forward motion,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

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