The New Year has arrived and with it comes that familiar feeling of a fresh start. Everything is bright and full of possibility.
If you’re the planning type, you probably have a typed list of shiny goals and resolutions already hung in a prominent place to remind you of your intentions for this year. Even if you’re not the planning type, you may have a few expectations for how you want this year to look.
For choral directors and educators, this is a time to reflect on teaching. What did I learn in the past year? How can I be more effective? We look for new resources or strategies. We collect ideas and teaching strategies and musical illustrations, ready to pepper our lessons and rehearsals with wisdom and insight.
Sometimes, we discover that this was a fleeting burst of energy, inspired by the brightness of the New Year. And by mid-February, we’re left feeling a little lackluster. Can you relate?
So, rather than talk about how to set the right goals or make resolutions that will last or plan out your entire year in one sitting, I want to share with you a few unconventional ways to start fresh and make this your best year:
1. Choose one thing to give up
What will you say no to this year? We tend to get so preoccupied by adding things into our already full schedules that we forget to make room, to create space for those good things we want to cultivate. Saying yes to a new conducting appointment may mean saying no to something else. Be intentional with what you choose to keep and hold onto and what you choose to let go of.
2. Choose one thing to simplify
What’s one thing that felt over-complicated or challenging last year? How could you simplify the process this year? Maybe it was planning and making decisions about music. Maybe it was organizing a concert or a teaching workflow in rehearsal. Whatever it is for you, spend some time thinking through all the steps you took. Write everything down and study it, looking for ways to eliminate or combine steps, cut back, or streamline things.
3. Choose one thing to energize
What’s one thing you want to invest your time and energy in this year? What do you want to do more of? Perhaps it’s conducting or music-listening in rehearsals or score-study. Think about what this might look like this year.
4. Choose one thing to savor
In our fast-paced world, we don’t always take the time to fully appreciate and enjoy things. What’s one thing you want to really savor this year? Maybe it’s a concert experience or a professional learning opportunity. Maybe it’s the week-to-week rehearsals along the way that help you remember why you started. How can you be intentional about slowing down and being present so you can fully appreciate these moments when they happen?
5. Choose one thing to prioritize
What do you want to focus on this year? What is your greatest priority, personally and/or professionally? Maybe it’s a recording project or preparing for a tour. Maybe it’s guest-conducting or learning a challenging piece of repertoire. What will it look like to prioritize this?
6. Choose one thing to explore
Exploring and discovering new things is an innate part of the creative process and something that’s fundamental to our work as musicians, educators, and directors. We have to make time for it. We have to reserve some whitespace for inspiration and carve out unstructured time for creativity. Maybe it’s one day a month where you go for a walk in a new place or visit a museum or go to a concert. Maybe it’s a couple hours per week or a few days per quarter. What are you curious about? What do you want to learn? What will you discover?
7. Choose one thing to de-clutter
This might be your desk, the music library, the digital music database, or your ensemble’s email inbox. Or maybe the most pressing space to de-clutter isn’t a space at all, but an area of your life that is taking up too much of your mental space (social media, anyone?). How can you bring order to something that’s chaotic and disorganized? Start by taking everything out and choosing what to add back in. How can you filter out the noise that crowds our thoughts on a daily basis? Set healthy boundaries. Be intentional with how you spend your time, guarding your mind from the barrage of information.
These approaches to starting the year can be a helpful way to start fresh and focus on the things that are most important to you. Begin with one approach and work from there. Perhaps you’ll discover a few unconventional approaches of your own for starting the year with intention and maintaining the motivation necessary to make real and lasting change.
Featured image credit: Karen Arnold via Pixabay.