With any new (or old) hobby or passion, the desire for growth is always there. But growth and achievement seem virtually impossible when you don’t know where to start. Without a plan? Not only can you not imagine the challenges you need to face, but they will be tougher to manage once they do inevitably arise.
Who am I to say? Well, I’ll use an example. In 5th grade I joined the band and started playing the french horn (one of the toughest instruments which I thought looked easy… boy was I wrong). I wasn’t some child prodigy like you see on Youtube or in movies that’s been playing instruments since they could barely walk. I didn’t even know how to read music! So, of course, when it came time to test to earn our music books, I was second to last in a crowded class. It took me over a week to learn a simple 5-note scale that almost everyone else had mastered in my class.
Despite the challenge, I stuck with it. By the end of 5th grade, the band teacher referred to me as his “star french horn player,” and in 6th grade there was no doubt in my mind that I would continue to take band. Now, in 7th, I can hardly believe how tough it was to get out a single note as I play complex pieces and effortlessly play songs I once thought impossible. I went from “Hot Cross Buns” seeming incredibly difficult to “Champagne Song” by Mozart being very manageable. And I’m still growing, applying those same principles to swim, track, and writing!
So how can you mimic that same kind of growth, even from humble beginnings? Here are 5 simple steps that will get you on track to being better at your hobby or passion. Get better at anything.
1. Evaluate: Are you genuinely passionate about this? What is your reason?
Before you get really invested in anything, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Are you genuinely passionate about it, doing it to impress someone, or just for something to put on your resume? Maybe you want something to boast about to your peers or to make someone you like notice you. That’s when you stop.
You can try to justify, but if you know that you don’t really like it, I wouldn’t follow the rest of the plan. Of course, exploration of new hobbies is great but there’s no reason to keep chasing something you don’t truly enjoy. If you are wanting to grow and get better for the right reasons, because you are either genuinely interested or it gives you happiness, procede! By defining your reasons, you are already so much better off. If possible, write the reasons down. For example, I swim for exercise, competition, because I love the water, and to hang out with friends.
⅕ of the way there!
2. Define a goal: major or minor! Now branch off of it.
Arguably one of the most important steps: setting a goal. People always say to set small goals first, but I don’t think that has to be the case every time. Something that works just as well is envisioning one big goal and then having smaller, interval goals within it.
Either way, you need a picture of success. This is absolutely essential to motivation. It could actually be your reason, like mentioned in the first one. Perhaps your hobby is baking and your reason/goal is to be able to bake and decorate a cake. Every time that you make a mess in the kitchen or absolutely fail (which you inevitably will at some point), your goal will give you the motivation to never give up.
To do this, some people make vision boards or simply write them down. Rather you decide to make a vision board or not, I heavily suggest putting them on paper so that you can physically be reminded and motivated each day.
For example, my goal for swim is to be able to do a 50 freestyle in 32 seconds, which at the start would have seemed impossible but now seems in-reach.
Setting a minor, achievable goal will help you along and ensure that you are making progress each time you set down to practice or work on the hobby you pursue.
3. Make a practice schedule!
So now that you’ve got a goal: let’s face it. That doesn’t mean anything until you have a plan. In any hobby or passion: a sport, instrument, writing, learning, cooking, art, whatever it may be, it’s going to be necessary that you practice. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Any kind of growth will take work and practice. Even the simplest of plans will take time, but you have to make time for it!
Let’s admit it: we’ve all procrastinated. It’s easy to do, but scheduling out your day makes procrastinating a thing of the past. Using bullet journals can help you with this, in my article: https://lifeandlemons.net/2019/02/03/how-bullet-journaling-could-organize-your-life-with-examples/. Calendars can be great to start, and eventually your hobby will be like a second-nature where you barely have to think about it. In fact, I believe that making the practice a habit is the most important thing for growth. If you’d like, read about exactly how to do this and I can guarantee you will become so much better in my article about forming new habits and breaking bad ones (link is here): https://lifeandlemons.net/2019/04/27/5-easy-tips-to-form-good-habits-and-break-bad-ones/
4. Interval Practicing
When you practice, if you want to do so for a sustained time, you need to do what’s right for you. Only go for as long as you can focus. If you feel yourself slipping, losing motivation/concentration, take a five minute break.
You can get a water or snack, go on a quick walk, or just get a breath of fresh air. Whatever it is that you choose, don’t work yourself until you are exhausted and unmotivated (unless in the case of a sport, where being exhausted is normal and part of practice).
A scientific method that many productivity gurus swear by is the Pomodoro technique. Invented by Francesco Cirillo, it is a strategy that is traditionally 25 minute work periods followed by short breaks. You keep going until you have made progress or have reached a satisfactory level. Depending on how small your goals are, you may actually want to keep practicing and taking short breaks until you achieve one.
Motivation is everything! Don’t lose it over one exhausting practice!
5. Never Give Up!
Never give up on your dreams. The wait can seem painful, but the regret of not going for it will be even more painful.”-Steven Aitchison
It seems like with every passion of mine, I start out the lowest of the low. French horn? I couldn’t play a note without sputtering hopelessly. Swim? When they said freestyle, I thought it meant to do whatever you wanted. I doggy paddled for the first day, struggling to swim a single length when my whole life I had thought I was a decent swimmer. Though sometimes you have to step aside to explore other things, like how I put a pause on swim to do track, you will always return to it if it’s something you love.
Nothing worth getting comes easy. If you follow the first three steps and continue to practice, over and over and over for as long as it takes, you will improve. You can and you will reach that goal, climb that mountain. It just takes work. Practice. Effort. Repetition.
The most important thing is that you never give up. If you do that? There’s nothing you can’t do.