Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
Voice teachers spend their workdays helping students achieve “success.” Some students progress quickly, others slowly. Life coach and author Michael Neill lays out numerous strategies for achieving success in his book Supercoach: 10 secrets to transform anyone’s life. As I was reading the book, “Session Three: The problem with goals” really jumped out at me. We live in a society where students are often told that they can acquire whatever they want (school of acquisition) or they can will it to be (school of attraction). These approaches, while well intentioned, often fail to produce results and students can easily become discouraged. Neill suggests a third mentality – the school of creation. The school of acquisition places the ability to achieve success outside of us in the physical world. The law of attraction places the power to get what we want in the metaphysical world. However, the school of creation asks us to accept that the power to achieve what we want is within ourselves. By focusing on creation, the power to achieve is accessed by the choices we make and not what the outside universe does for us.
Project or goal?
While focusing on long-term goals works well for some students, for others it can inhibit growth and success. Some people place such intense focus on reaching their long-term goals that their happiness and self-worth are determined by whether or not they reach said goals. There is also a tendency for long-term goal setters to reset their goals as they achieve success, which prevents them from feeling fulfilled. Neill suggests an alternative to long-term goal setting – focusing on short-term projects. Focusing on projects allows us to live in the now by taking actionable steps towards the long-term goal. Here are a few differences between goals and projects according to Neill:
If we can turn the student’s focus towards short-term projects, we can often prevent them from getting discouraged while still acknowledging their long-term goals.
Obstacle or excuse?
While shifting the focus from long-term goals to short-term projects is important, we must also teach our students how to confront challenges. No matter how diligently the student works, there are always going to be roadblocks that get in the way. The student can view the roadblocks as obstacles and find a way to get around them or they can choose to make excuses for why they cannot get past the roadblock. Students who choose the later are doomed to failure. We need to help our students get into the mindset of overcoming obstacles and help them realize if they really want what they say they want, there’s always a way to get it.
Use the following exercise to help your students analyze a roadblock, and determine what to do next.
Neill’s book is full of useful tips for helping people create the life they want. Although he is currently a life coach, he began his career as an actor. As you read the book, it becomes very clear that the challenges of pursuing a performance career have deeply influenced his work. While it is easy to primarily focus on the technical and artistic side of performance, I believe books such as this can provide insights that are just as important. The summary provided above has been adapted for brevity and clarity. If you find this approach of interest, check out pages 43-80 in Supercoach: 10 secrets to transform anyone’s life. If you are not yet following the blog, please sign-up on the bottom right-hand side of the screen. As always, thanks for reading Mix it up Monday!