What singing taught me about goal setting
19 August 2015
I was a self-taught singer. My journey as a singer very much parallels many of my other journeys. Journeys that always began with a sudden passion of “do or die” for whatever discipline that I had a fancy in at the time. I must become the expert in whatever I pursuit – a teaching that was instilled in me from an early age by my father. At the age of nine, my family immigrated to Melbourne and I spiralled down into years of depression and isolation fuelled by an ever declining self esteem which I did not truly begin to rediscover until AC (After Children). At around age 11, just before I was to start secondary school, I have truly had quite enough of my peers bullying me because I did not speak “Australian” without my funny accent. It was at this time that I decided that to be taken seriously and to become a part of the culture, I had to lose that accent quick smart and start sounding like the other kids or else forever be an outcast who was good at nothing but fractions. As it turned out being good at maths served me quite well in my later career but ironic well-meaning compliments of “but we love you, Heidi, you are one of ‘us’” just serves to confirm my pre-teen theory further. If you don't sound like them, you will never be one of them.
It was at this time, that I discover an old English nursery rhyme cassette tape my mum had brought with us from Hong Kong. Night after night, I would lock myself in my room, singing and copying the sounds of the words to “One two three four five, once I caught a fish alive” visualising that I was singing to an audience of thousands. Having very few friends, this became my obsession, every night I would sing these nursery rhymes over and over again. I would record myself singing using second hand amplifiers and other bits of audio equipment lying around (Having an electrical engineer as a father meant that a girl picked up skills). I would then listen to the tapes and practised until I sounded exactly like the original recording.
I began to develop my aural listening skills unwittingly and began to speak more and more like an “Aussie”. Mind you, it took many more years to get most words sounding “right” and even now, I cannot pronounce some words without sounding “Asian”. It was only in the past ten years, that I have mastered the word “film”… Thank god for digital cameras! I am just now able to have a laugh at myself with others without feeling inferior. Let’s face it, even some Aussies can’t pronoun English words correctly so it was really a lesson in allowing myself the space to make mistakes and laugh without self bashing my own confidence.
It was around Year 11 that I finally convinced my parents that piano training was not really what I was about. I was trained as a classical dancer from the age of four, I needed to FACE the audience. Finally, they agreed for me to stop piano lessons and switched to voice training. The one thing that always stuck with me from singing lessons was that to hit the high notes, teachers always told you not to reach for the note but to visualise the next note. Also, as you are singing up the scale, imagine you are singing down the scale to boost your confidence. And, it was in this way, that I fine-tuned my goal setting skills. Always reach beyond the note, reach for a higher goal that is just that little bit further than what you think you can achieve – a stretch goal, so to speak. When you have a task that seems impossible, leverage the confidence from those skills that you know you have already mastered. Think down the scale as you are singing up. Pretend you are singing the lower notes, the ones you can already easily hit. When you set stretch goals and leverage on the confidence on the skillset you already have, you trick your mind into thinking that everything is achievable and everything becomes attainable. Your initial goal has absolute certainly of being achieved if you are aiming just beyond it and if you do this continuously, the sky is the limit. Our minds are so much more capable of achieving things that our insecurities tell us we cannot. So, next time you have a goal, set one that is just that little bit beyond, and leverage your confidence from your past achievements for a future that is beyond your perceived limits. You are capable of achieving so much more.
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