I have always decided on a New Year’s resolution at the end of the year. I don’t always get to realize all of my past resolutions, but I love the idea of resetting my intentions yearly once again. I ask myself, “Is there any area of my life to which I need to pay more attention? Do my actions reflect what I am passionate about and my principles in life?”
When I consider New Year’s resolutions, I often think of a big category in life, such as health, relationships, career, finances, spirituality, and so on, like a wheel of life. Then, I try to find a system that I can use to improve daily within any category that seems weaker than the others. I always have several new sets of repertoires that I want to tackle in a new year, as well.
Despite my initial enthusiasm, whenever I learn a new piece of music, I am still amazed at how long it takes to learn a piece to be ready to perform it. I mean, not to the point that I am playing the right notes in memory, but the level of total freedom that I can transcend through music. Even then, the day I can say I have conquered the piece never comes. After many successful public performances, the music continually evolves, changing daily, as do I. Sometimes, it felt like a betrayal when the section I thought I knew securely suddenly didn’t go as I thought it would on stage.
The legendary cellist János Starker practiced Bach’s Cello Suites every single day, even when he was in his 90s. He performed the Suites hundreds, if not thousands, of times throughout his life. People asked him why he kept practicing the piece he knew better than anyone in this world. His answer was, “I can feel I am making progress.”
He was onto something. The mindset of a master—one can never master mastery. As frustrating as it can sometimes be, it is joyous to feel a small pinch of success from the everyday practice of getting better. Mr. Starker’s daily practice was not about winning a competition or public performances but about the intrinsic rewards of making progress. The world got to listen to his wonderful performance as a gift and the outcome of his desire to share.
Seth Godin says in his book Practice, “The practice is not the means to the output, the practice IS the output, because the practice is all we can control.”
He adds, “Creativity doesn’t repeat itself. However, the creative journey still follows a pattern. It is a practice of growth and connection, of service, and daring. It’s also a practice of selflessness and ego in an endless dance. The practice exists for writers and leaders and for teachers and painters. It’s grounded in the real world, a process that takes us where we hope to go.”
I love that creativity results from the desire to find a new truth, solve an old problem, or serve someone else. Creativity is a choice, not a bolt of lightning from somewhere else.
Whenever I feel too drained to do my work, I remind myself to focus on being in the never-ending process. It is a persistent, stepwise approach that we pursue for its own sake and not because we want anything guaranteed in return.
“Am I helping someone? Am I in the process of creating in the service of the better?”
You haven’t reached your goals (so far).
You’re not as good at your skill as you want to be (not yet).
You are struggling to find the courage to create (so far).
This is fabulous news. It’s been going on since you were a kid. Something isn’t there when you want it, but then it is. Persistent and consistent efforts over time can yield results. “So far” and “not yet” are the foundations of every successful journey.
Mr. Starker might still be practicing his Bach cello suite every morning if he were alive, telling himself, “I am not there yet.”
So, now, it is your turn. When you make your New Year’s resolutions for 2024, try to consider these five elements of the practice of life:
1) Growth – What can I do to learn and grow more this year?
2) Connection – What can I do to create more meaningful connections and relationships with others?
3) Of service – What can I do in the service of the better?
4) Daring – How can I go on a journey with my eyes wide open, trusting the process and myself to create my best contribution?
5) Selflessness and ego are in an endless dance – How can I let go of myself more?
What is your most important New Year’s resolution? Please share it with me!
I hope you get to enjoy the “not yet” journey of finding endless joy in your daily life in 2024.
Happy New Year!