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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday "Morning" KIG (Kick Into Gear)

OK, so it isn't Monday morning anymore. I'll just go on pretending that it is so I can post this goal setting discussion. It's still Monday as I write this.

It's that time of year that all musicians know and love: Nutcracker Ballet, Messiah, Church Christmas programs, Christmas Sing-a-longs, and final semester programs. The university is winding down its semester, and today was kind of like that last day before one goes on vacation. It's amazing how many things need to be taken care of before leaving for the day (and the semester). I thought I'd find a few moments in my morning to post this, but no such luck.

In past goal setting discussions, I've talked about the importance of writing down goals. I wanted to share another humorous personal experience for me. As I was cleaning through some goal-setting materials that I've used in the past, I stumbled across a page in a notebook, which I had written in 2001 or 2002, almost a decade ago. I had written a list of 20 items in answer to the statement: "I want more . . ."

Here are a few of the 20 items I listed:

- more money (I make more than double what I did back in 2001)
- time to write (I'm writing fairly consistently on a weekly basis)
- travel (Since 2001, I've been to Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, London, Wales, Scotland, and Italy, and I have plans to return to Italy in the summer of 2011)
- time to go horseback riding (although this only seems to be available during holidays, I now actually own my own horse and have made friends with several riding instructors; I have spent the past year learning about the Parelli horse training method)
- time to go see my family (I have learned to just take the necessary time; I have seen my entire family in the past 2 years)
- time to do language programs (I completed the Rosetta Stone Italian course before my first trip to Italy in 2009; I successfully managed to survive in Italy on the Italian I learned, even when I got lost jogging in Florence)
- cute little dog (I now own 6 cute little dogs, and I raise miniature long-haired Dachshunds; we are raising 3 puppies currently to be ready for new homes for Christmas)

In another area, I had to write about my "dream state" in 10 areas of my life, describing how I wanted each area of my life to be if I had no restrictions. The 10 areas included: Health & Fitness, Family, Friends, Home, Career, Finances, Spirituality, Leisure, Community, and World View. Here are some highlights from my list of 2001:

- I can run a marathon and do it once a year (I completed my first marathon in 2006, and I have run a marathon and several half marathons or other longer running distance every year except this current one; I have run two ultra marathons of 50K also)
- I am teaching full time at the university (I have been full time since fall 2009)
- I make enough money to play a fabulous violin (I now own two of them) and own a grand piano (bought a few years ago)
- I am able to use my musical talents to benefit my church or other churches (I now have a position playing piano for the Sunday morning service at the First Baptist Church in Wimberley
- I enjoy solitude in the country (yup, my home is on a smaller ranch of 16.5 acres and in the Hill Country, about 12 miles from any village or town)
- My music, writing, speaking, and teaching helps to nurture and mature parents and children (I have been giving a parent teaching course for a decade now, and I have received a lot of feedback that the course has helped parents to be better role models and teachers for their children)

Now isn't that just amazing? I don't even remember writing those lists of goals a decade ago, and yet, the written evidence is before me. What is truly astonishing is that I have accomplished so many of the things I wrote about, and in some cases I have achieved even more than my first thoughts anticipated.

Again I'd like to encourage you to write down some goals for this coming year. Try the two exercises I described above. In exercise 1, take a sheet of paper and number from 1-20 lines. At the top of the paper, write "I want more." Then quickly (do not stop!), fill in the 20 blanks. This isn't the most effective list of goals, but it is a starting point of a written list of goals.

The second exercise was designed to get you thinking about a particular picture or image that comes to mind when you think about a particular goal. For example, when I say I want more money, what picture comes to mind? A fast car, a mansion, a fancy restaurant, or a bank balance? These would be effective pictures, and writing my specific goal in terms of the picture I create in my head would be the best way to effectively record my goal. The second exercise helps us to create the picture in our heads because it asks us to describe various areas of our life: Health & Fitness, Family, Friends, Home, Career, Finances, Spirituality, Leisure, Community (neighborhood), and World View. After writing your own life description in these various areas, you can then begin to reflect on how different your dream life looks from your current life.

Sometimes what we need in the beginning is a purpose or vision statement to get us going and give us momentum. My purpose and vision stems from something that Dr. Shinichi Suzuki wrote about not wanting to grow concert artists, but to use the violin as a vehicle for teaching his students to be better human beings and members of society. I totally agree with Dr. Suzuki's philosophy, and I have spent decades trying to influence or inspire students, their parents, and even other teachers to reach out and do the same. Dr. Suzuki's dream was to change the world one student at a time. I agree. As a teacher, I can think of no nobler purpose than to teach a student the process of developing an ability and skill. Whether the student pursues the skill or ability into adult years does not matter as much as teaching the student what the tools and steps are to learn a skill or ability.

This semester (and this week), I have graduated two students from the university. One is an undergraduate music educator who will be an excellent strings teacher, and the other was a graduate student who will bring his skills and abilities to a different cultural realm and location. I am so proud of both students for all their hard work and dedication to the teaching profession. I am so happy to have shared a few moments with both students as they passed by on their life's journey to become future music educators.

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