Just Make It a Habit

Just Make It a Habit

Way back in 2008, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to wake up at 5 am every day and go to the gym. I was getting married in August, and looking great in my wedding dress was excellent motivation. So on January 2nd I dragged my tired behind to the gym. And it was hard. January 3rd was hard too, and the same held true a week later. But eventually, it got easier.

Four years later, I’m still getting up at 5 am and going to the gym. With a smile on my face and a spring in my step. How? Because I made it a habit.

People ask me all the time how I do it, and the answer is always the same. In fact, I give that same answer when they ask me how I was able to write a blog post every day for a year or if it’s difficult writing and recording a new Listen & Learn song every week.

The thing about long-term goals and big commitments is that they are always overwhelming at first — because we focus on the “long-term” and “big” parts. But if you break it down and just start taking action, it becomes manageable.  Think about how many times you’ve heard the phrase take it one day/step at a time…it works.

Something that has always helped me create habits (and I’m talking about the positive, productive kind) is to set a designated time devoted just to that one activity. I’ve already given the example of going to the gym at 5 am. Others include writing and recording my songs on Saturday mornings, completing and emailing my lesson/session notes immediately after my last student leaves every evening, and doing my weekly accounting every Friday.

As I write this blog post, I’m wondering to myself if doling out such basic advice is a waste of my time and energy. Maybe it is, but I want to make it clear that the power of habit is really, really strong. Just keep doing something, day after day, no matter how difficult it feels; one day you’ll realize that you can’t NOT do it. And if you need extra incentive, make your intention known. Whether you tell your mom, book club, or entire Facebook friend list, putting it out there will help you to hold yourself accountable.

So what habits are you working on creating?

Friday Fave: Being Elmo

Being Elmo - A Puppeteer's Journey

Earlier this month, my dad told me to check out a documentary on Netflix called Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. I found his suggestion to be a bit random, but he insisted that it was quite entertaining and I would enjoy it.

So I finally watched it, and he was right — I enjoyed the documentary so much that I just had to tell you all about it, too :) It doesn’t relate specifically to music or music therapy, but it does send the same message I share with my students who have big dreams: follow your passion, work hard, and someday you’ll make them a reality.

Kevin Clash is the puppeteer who has played Elmo on Sesame Street since the early 1990s. The documentary tells us the story of his life, beginning with his early child when he first started putting on puppet shows for the children his mom babysat.

Not only did Kevin Clash do anything and everything he could to improve his skills as a puppeteer, but he went out of his comfort zone to make connections with people in the industry. That is what led him to Jim Henson, and how he started his career on Sesame Street.

I don’t mean to be so cheesy, but I really did feel incredibly inspired after watching this. We could all use a little extra inspiration from time to time…I hope you’ll take my (and my dad’s) advice to watch it, too.

My Musical Space: Susan Seale’s Musicalia


Last spring, I chronicled the renovation of my new studio right here at Listen & Learn. I asked readers for decorating and organizing suggestions, and was thrilled to receive a boatload of ideas from the wonderful Susan Seale, who has a music and movement education studio of her own.

The pictures Susan sent me of her studio sparked a fun idea: why not showcase the places where my readers create, teach, and facilitate musical experiences? So this is the inaugural edition of a new series called “My Musical Space” — beginning with Susan’s beautiful studio. (Click the pictures to view larger versions.) Let’s start with the entrance and waiting room:

Entrance & Waiting Room

“These are photos of the hallway, looking into the office with it’s busy-ness and the organized but extremely busy storage beside the office (and thankfully out of view of my clients…when I have the curtain drawn).”

Office & Kitchen

“I have a ton of equipment and movement props that are organized into cupboards made for me:) Storage for ukuleles and orff instrumentarium, puppets, percussion, rainsticks..super long ones!”

Cupboards & Organization

“The floors are fun here…specially designed pattern in the music room to facilitate movement with the very young. Two pianos. I don’t know if you can see in the photos, but I have a tree net scrunched up hanging on the wall beside the ball bag.  I hang the net across the opening to the piano area and store big instruments like the cello and such behind the net during my baby classes…to keep babies and instruments safe.”

Floors & Display Boards

Thank you so much, Susan, for giving us an inside look at your amazing musical space! You can learn more about Susan, her studio, and all her brilliant ideas by visiting her blog, Make Me Musical.

Readers: if you’d like to submit pictures and captions of YOUR musical space for an upcoming feature, please email them to me. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a studio; maybe your musical space is your car, or a corner of your living room, or the closet-sized office where you work (I used to have one of those!). Whatever it may be, I’d love for you to share with us.

5 Movies I Watch for Inspiration

This past weekend, while my husband was out of town for yet another bachelor party, I spent both Friday and Saturday evenings parked out on the couch watching movies with my dog. (Easy A, The Back-Up Plan, 50 First Dates, and Zombieland, if you were curious.)

Lo and behold, all of that movie watching inspired me to write a blog post about the movies that inspire me!  So here they are, in no particular order:

Mr. Holland's Opus

Growing up, I owned the VHS tape of Mr. Holland’s Opus and watched it all the time.  I wanted to be just like Rowena, the ingenue who had such a beautiful voice and inspired Mr. Holland’s composition.  But now that I’m all grown up, Mr. Holland inspires me to be a better teacher, and to get my students excited about music.

Field of Dreams

Every knows the most famous line from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come.”  Everyone thought Ray Kinsella was crazy for turning his farmland into a baseball field, but he did it, witnessed some pretty amazing things, and even made a living out of it by turning it into a tourist attraction.  I can sort of relate, with my journey from music major (which plenty of people thought was a crazy idea) to music therapist with a soon-to-be full time private practice.

Moulin Rouge

I first saw Moulin Rouge (five times in the theater) as a high school graduate, getting ready to move far away for college and pursue my dreams of performing.  So naturally this movie was inspiring; lots of creative, talented people pursuing their dreams of putting on a show.  It didn’t hurt that I had a huge crush on Ewan McGregor :)  The love story, the songs, and the visual effects are stunning, and I can feel my creative juices pumping every time I watch it.

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada might very well be one of my favorite movies of all time.  Not only do I love the main cast (Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, and Stanley Tucci), but I think the way they portray the inner workings of a fashion magazine is so interesting.  And even though Andy (Anne Hathaway’s character) lets her job negatively affect her attitude as she climbs the ranks, she finds her way back to her true self and purpose in the end.

Julie & Julia

Duh, Julie & Julia had to be on this list! After all, it’s about a blogger who writes about her passion…sound familiar?!  And although I’m not getting movie and book deals (unless you count my songbook) I’ve had lots of cool stuff happen because of Listen & Learn.  Also, Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci are in this movie — see above.

I find inspiration in some of the strangest and most unexpected places, but I think movies are a pretty common source of it.  I would love to hear about the movies that inspire you.  Please share them in the comments!