ASMAC kicked off the First Wednesday Series for 2017 on the same high note that was present in all their 2016 events. Being aware that a successful musical career is built on many components other than scores and recordings, the society brought in Gretchen Hydo, a certified life coach, to discuss how to put together a mindful approach to setting and achieving your personal and professional goals in the upcoming year.
Ms. Hydo pointed out we all deal with an overcrowded, overactive mind which can cause us to feel overwhelmed in modern society. Studies have shown the average person experiences 68,000 thoughts per day. To sharpen our focus, the goal is to slow the mind down and take control of the thought process; not to let the process control us.
Pointing out that our minds are constantly scanning for threats and problems, Gretchen said the search for possible dilemmas and crises can create fears, anxieties and reactions to imagined situations. Thinking or believing something can make it appear real for both the body and the mind. Our body’s reaction to these beliefs may lead to anxiety attacks, insomnia and other physical manifestations.
Hydo brought up mindfulness/meditation as a solution to the roving and unsettled mind. Practicing meditation on a daily basis will help quiet your mind and clear your thoughts.
Her suggestions for how to create a meditation practice are:
Set a timer.
(experiment with different lengths of time, generally between 3 and 24 minutes per session)
Sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. Close your eyes.
Taking long deep breaths, inhale for 3 slow counts, hold for 2 counts. Exhale for 3 slow counts, hold for 2 counts. Repeat this process. Focus on your breath.
Observe any thoughts that come up. Don’t judge, just observe and then dismiss the thoughts. Return your focus to your breath.
When the timer rings you are done.
Practicing meditation can help by consciously working to slow down the thoughts we have and learn to observe and note habitual patterns of thoughts called loops. Observing patterns that recur from day to day is a useful habit to develop in meditation. One of Gretchen’s suggestions was observing and noting negative thoughts gives us the option of not following them to their conclusion. This short circuits the thought’s impact before it becomes powerful.
Another daily tip was to dwell on positive thoughts not negative. Ask yourself questions like “What would success look and feel like?” as opposed to “How many different ways could this idea fail?” Then imagine and visualize the answer.
Creating an affirmation was also a tool suggested by Gretchen. Take a positive trait of yours and put it in this sentence. I am ____. Repeat this numerous times. Then shorten the sentence to just the trait and continue to repeat that word. This tool can be very powerful, especially if it contains a rhythmic pulse.
Not just setting goals but setting smart goals is the key to successfully reaching them, Gretchen pointed out. Smart goals are:
They contain a time table or a due date.
Some goals will contain subsets of nested smart goals to reach their completion.
Post a list of your goals somewhere in plain sight.
Find an accountability partner to check in on your progress with.
Gretchen warns that “your goals must be in alignment with your personal values if they are to succeed.” Her definition of values is “your life’s operating system.” If something does not feel right about your goal or the process of reaching it, examine it in the light of your personal beliefs.
Gretchen ended the night with the following practical tips for a more successful life.
Drop the rest of any negative thought before finishing it.
This keeps old familiar negative thoughts from becoming old familiar negative feelings.
Create both a 10 minute “to do” list and a “won’t do” list daily.
The won’t do section keeps you from worrying and brooding about tasks you know you won’t do or complete, giving you permission to ignore them.
It divides your focus, lowers productivity and diminishes the quality of your work.
Schedule uninterrupted time.
Hang up a do not disturb sign and just work!!
Set up an accomplishment jar.
Every time you reach an accomplishment you are proud of or happy about put a note in the jar. Then when things are going slowly, or on a periodic basis, read the notes and remind yourself how much you have accomplished.
Go offline an hour a day.
Turn off the phone, email and social media.
Align your vision with your values.
If something feels uncomfortable in your current project, see where it conflicts with your personal beliefs and make any adjustments necessary.
Gretchen Hydo practices in Sherman Oaks CA and is available for private life coaching sessions.