Release what does not serve you
Once upon a time, little 18 year old me entered the California Institute of the Arts to study classical singing. I had very little musical training prior to then, just a natural ability. I didn’t even read music very well, so I was really a blank canvas for taking in whatever my teachers and mentors could share. My teachers guided me to music that seemed to be appropriate for my voice, and I found I was able to learn a lot very quickly, and was excited to do so. However, with a very young voice, and minimal previous training, there were some technique issues that were going to take me some time to practice and simply weren’t going to resolve overnight… Similar to a young athlete learning a sport, or learning a new lift in the gym.
In my first semester, I remember struggling with certain aspects of pieces that were supposed to be “perfect” for my voice. I knew there was something I wasn’t doing correctly, but couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, or how to approach my practicing so that I would improve. I felt that I could do it, but my technique was inconsistent. I remember talking about this to a mentor in a lesson one day, asking for help. She told me “Well, maybe those pieces just aren’t for you.”
And there it was. A simple comment that made its way in, and became something I wrestled with for many years.
Right now at Breakthrough, I have the pleasure of coaching some amazing people for the next 7 weeks in our Drop Two Sizes Challenge. Of course we are focused on nutrition and training, but a big component of succeeding in this challenge is working with mindset. Last week we had our first meeting, and I asked everyone to spend some time exploring ideas, thoughts or beliefs they may have that might be holding them back, with the understanding that we are free to let go of old ideas that no longer serve us… A concept that applies to all areas of life, not just weight loss.
“Maybe that’s just the way I am.” “Girls just aren’t really meant to do lots of push ups or pull ups.” “I’ve failed before, so why should this time be any different.” “I never seem to save enough money to afford to take that vacation.” “I’m just a ‘foodie’.” “I’m not brave enough.” “Maybe I’m just not meant to sing that music.”
Quite a few people have shared with me some of these thoughts that they struggle with, and I’ve noticed over the years, many of them come from comments that other people have said either to them or about them… Just like my experience. So maybe the stories we are telling ourselves aren’t even our stories at all.
I didn’t realize until many years later how much the comment about my singing had affected me. I remember practicing an aria for an opera I had been cast in, and feeling my body tense up and my mind start to race as I got to a challenging section of the piece: “Maybe this just isn’t for you.” And then it came to me – it was never me who said that in the first place, so why did I have to believe it? I’d been hired to do the role, so presumably it was for me.
Now I’m not saying that all the negative thoughts we have are coming from someone else, and that other people are to blame, and we are all victims. I don’t buy into any of that. And I also don’t believe that the way our mind interprets things is necessarily the way it is intended. Humans have a long history of miscommunications and misunderstandings. I recognize now that my teacher most likely wanted me focus on repertoire I could sing easily as a young singer, keep solidifying my technique, and return to more challenging music when I was more experienced.
I wish I could say that after my moment of realization, I never had that negative thought or felt that doubt ever again. Unfortunately that’s not the way it worked out. But, I did eventually discover that I could let the thought go. That when it came up, I didn’t have to hold on to it so tightly. And that by releasing it, I could allow for the possibility of positive thoughts to replace that one.
Like any skill worth developing, it takes consistent practice. First, you have to spend some time being open to noticing your thoughts. I recommend doing this with curiosity rather than judgement. Once you tune in to what your thought patterns are, it’s not necessarily about driving negative thoughts away and never having them again. It’s about not latching on to them and allowing them to plant roots so deep that nothing else can grow.
Every day is a clean slate. We are free to grow and change. We don’t have to hold on to old beliefs about ourselves that are no longer true… or maybe they were never true in the first place. We don’t have to be stuck rehashing situations from decades ago, or clinging to past mistakes. We are free to learn our lessons, and move on.
Release what does not serve you. Make the world a better place by allowing yourself to keep expanding your capabilities. I can’t wait to see all the awesome stuff you’ll do!
Strength & love,