Focus on the “Why”

“Begin with the end in mind.” -Stephen Covey

There is only one-way to become really proficient at something and that’s through practice/repetition (I’ll use the two words interchangeably.)  However, sometimes the thing you want and the skills required to be good at it are not the same thing.  I remember when I was learning to play piano; I did not appreciate the importance of learning my scales.  What I wanted was to be good enough to play real songs.  “Why do I have to do these D-U-M-B scales all the time,” I thought to myself when I was 6-years-old.  I didn’t understand that the scales were a necessary skill in order to achieve my goal of playing songs proficiently.  In fact, I didn’t even understand that practicing playing songs was necessary for me to become a good piano player.  I figured if I just took lessons long enough, I would learn to play.  No adult disabused me of this notion and so for 8-years I took piano lessons and almost never practiced in between.  Can I play the piano now?  Barely…definitely not at the level of someone who took 8-years of lessons!

On the other hand, growing up I absolutely loved math and would do problems just for fun.  I enjoyed everything about learning and doing math and because I enjoyed it, I would “practice” a lot and became very good and proficient at it.  However, this wasn’t hard for me to do because I loved the repetition so much.

But what do you do if you REALLY WANT to do something/achieve a goal, but DON’T ENJOY the practice/repetition required in order to be good at it?  You keep the “end in mind” as Mr. Covey points out, or as Jeff Olson says you “focus on your why.”  I’ve been very successful at doing this in areas of my life where I have an inherently strong “why.”  Health and wellness are so important to me that I am able to eat well and exercise regularly (despite the fact that I would love to eat pizza every day and just sit in a comfy chair and read all day long) so that I can have optimal health.  Over time I’ve even come to enjoy healthy eating and exercise…but I didn’t always!  But my “why” of optimum health was so strong that I was able to keep on track until I started liking it.

That’s the beauty of being human.  We are creatures of habit.  We just have to do the uncomfortable thing long enough until it becomes a habit and therefore becomes comfortable.  I have used this technique very successfully with improving my Spanish over the last year.  For years my Spanish skills have languished because I’ve simply been too embarrassed to practice with Spanish speakers.  But I have a strong “why” now (to teach it to my child and to live in Spain with my family) and over the last year the discomfort I used to feel has completely evaporated through repetition.  I’m not even really sure if my Spanish is improved that much in the last  year, but I am SO MUCH more comfortable speaking it, which means I do it more, which means I get a little better, which means I do it more, which means I get a little better…and so on and so on.

So don’t give up on a goal just because the process isn’t enjoyable, and also don’t think that the discomfort you feel means that the goal is unattainable!  Often to get something you want you need to get outside of your comfort zone to get it.  Most goals require growth on our part and growth can be uncomfortable.  But if you focus on your “why” and your desired outcome, you can motivate yourself to grow in ways you never thought possible!  To help motivate yourself, imagine what your life will be like once you’ve obtained your goal in as much juicy detail as possible and do this on a daily basis until it has come to pass.  Also, make progress towards your goal DAILY.  My Spanish improvement was done by just setting the goal of speaking it 5-minutes a day.  It was so doable and after a year of doing it, I feel like I’ve really accomplished what I set out to do.

To that end, I’m going to go hammer out some scales on that keyboard that’s been sitting idle too long.  Christmas 2014 is going to be the year I play some holiday songs for my family to sing-along to!  I am already imagining the fun we will all have as my hands dance across the keys of the piano at my parent’s house.  5-minutes a day…sometimes that’s all it takes!

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