Author’s Note: I try never to guarantee that you will succeed if you follow my advice. My stories and suggestions are more like “This is what happened to me, here’s what I tried. MAYBE it will work for you.”
And while I’m using a sports analogy in the title of this post, life itself is not a contest. I’m simply trying to tell a story that might ease any stress or shyness when it comes to trying something new.
I’ve always had a passion for trying things out, but for much too long I held myself back. Imagine you want to join friends who are playing a game of softball. Or you are at a party when someone picks up a guitar, and they start playing a song.
In your heart, you know you can swing that bat, or sing that song, but there you sit, waiting for what feels like an eternity for someone to ask you to play along. That desire, and not being asked to join, is one of the loneliest feelings I’ve ever experienced.
The harsh reality is, we live in a judgmental society. Especially if you have a disability, odds are, those invitations to join will be few and far between. How do you work around this?
Be your own coach, and get involved in the game of life, while making yourself and others happy in the process!
Before you join a group, or start a new activity, honestly assess your skills before starting. While winning or being the best is not the point, I find it helps if we don’t jump into the deep end of the pool right off the start.
Especially if it is a group activity, like a choir or a weekend sports league: If you think you are an expert, but are really a beginner, people might not be so supportive. If you are unsure of your skill level, get feedback from someone who has more experience.
As a musician who loves to perform, nothing frustrates me more than someone who says “Oh, I know this song!”, and then that person starts playing their musical instrument but does not even know how the song begins. Then they fumble through the middle part, and walk away before the song is finished.
Joining groups or starting new activities is a good thing. Making promises you can’t keep, not such a good thing,
Join Friendly and Supportive Groups
At one time, I very badly wanted to sing, but constantly held myself back from performing in front of people. At around the age of twenty six, I finally joined a group of friends who sang in what they called a “bardic circle”.
No tryouts were required! The point was to just get together once a week, learn medieval songs to perform at various festivals, and have a bit of fun. I knew I was a beginner, and this informal group of singing friends was perfect for me.
These folks were VERY supportive. Yes, we pointed out when any of us were off key, or messed up lyrics, but we helped each other learn and grow without ever being mean. We were there to have fun singing, and that is exactly what we did.
Learn, Practice, Adjust, Repeat
For me, trying my best to learn something is much more enjoyable than coasting along. That’s just a personal preference. Whatever activity you are participating in, there are TONS of teaching materials on the internet. Here’s how I approach improvement:
- Learn as much as you can on the subject, appropriate to your current level of skill.
- Practice AND Perform what you learn from step 1.I bundle these two together, because I feel that performing IS the most important practice. Without feedback from an independent source, practice will only get you so far. To measure where we are truly at, writers need reader response, athletes compete against each other, musicians perform in front of an audience, etc.
- Adjust from your mistakes and miscues during step 2. Also, take note of the things you did right in step 2. Keep everything you did right!
- Repeat steps 1-3
Variety is the Spice of Life
Few of us are lucky to find even one activity that will keep us motivated for the rest of our life. If you someday start to get bored with an activity or group, it’s okay to slow down or even quit. It is perfectly fine to try other activities and groups, so long as you don’t abandon any responsibilities you may have.
Resting or getting into new hobbies will refuel or put a new twist on old interests. Being active is good, but go with your flow.
Relax and Enjoy
While I am encouraging participation, and trying your best, the point is to have fun and let go of stress.
And for those of you who worry about how long it will take for you to master a new skill, or think you are too old to try, I’m reminded of a quote:
QUESTION: Do you know how old I’ll be by the time I learn to play the piano?
ANSWER: The same age you will be if you don’t.