100 stickers and a chart on the fridge
As you may know, I have 2 little boys, one age 5 (R), and the other age 3 (D). What you may not know is that both my boys take violin lessons weekly from my mom. Yes. They both do. R has been taking lessons for about a year and a half and D decided that he was going to start this most recent summer. Some days it is a challenge to say the least, and it really is me taking lessons as much as it is them taking lessons. (Luckily for me, I also started violin lessons around age 3, so I know a few things.)
This fall, my mom did a challenge for all her students in her studio. Over 115 calendar days, her students were to log 100 days of practice. During those 115 days we had fall break, Thanksgiving, and numerous weekends (obviously). We had been struggling on the consistency department when it came to practicing so this was the perfect opportunity for us to get back at it again.
We came home from our lesson at the end of August, and taped our charts up to the fridge, all ready to start on Labor day. I talked to both boys about how we needed to practice every day, and when we did our practice, we would get a sticker to place on our chart. They were ECSTATIC!
The first few weeks I had to keep reminding them that we needed to practice to earn our stickers, but they happily did. Then we almost missed our first day. We were getting ready for bed when R stood up and yelled “WE NEED TO PRACTICE!” Talk about a proud mom moment. The switch from me asking them to practice, to them asking me to practice was awesome to see. Some mornings we practiced at 6:30 am before we started our day, sometimes we practiced at 7:30 pm, right before heading to bed. But we practiced nearly every day. We even took our violins on a road trip to Idaho for fall break where we didn’t miss a single day.
The challenge was set to end on Christmas eve. R placed his last sticker on December 17, and D placed his on December 22. Both boys made it. (And I only had to nag occasionally)
Watching them go through this, and going through it with them taught me a lot, but I’d like to share 4 things with you.
Find ways to celebrate your successes along the way. Yes, our ultimate goal was 100 days, but day 100 feels an awfully long ways away when you are on day 3. Occasionally R would tell me that he was working towards 100 days, but he was far more excited about the sticker he got every day. That little sticker was his celebration and reward for putting in the time that day. Yes, we eventually got to day 100 and we made a HUGE deal out of it (plus a prize that is on its way), but the daily reward of putting the sticker on the chart is really what kept both boys moving. The same idea can be applied to us for literally ANYTHING. Training for a race? Trying to lose weight? Working to recover from having a baby? Trying to learn a new skill/hobby? Needing to fold the laundry? CELEBRATE along the way. Big goals are much more achievable when we can see the successes along the way.
We all have the time. This one might be a hard pill to swallow but here it is. We all have the time to work on our goals. Literally all of us. Between 3 kids, a full time job, 2 businesses, and a husband that works wacky hours, it could have been SO EASY to say that we just simply didn’t have the time for something like this, and no one would have argued with me. But I saw the value in some consistent practice for my boys and the opportunity to teach them to work towards something. So we MADE time. We didn’t find the time, or hope it would happen. We made time for it. Every day. On busy days, on stressful days, on sick days, on holidays. We all waste time every day, whether it is on social media, binging netflix, hitting snooze a few too many times on our alarm, or just not being focused when we are working on something. There are extra minutes in our day, just waiting for us to be more intentional with. Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to schedule out every second of our day, because we all need some downtime, trust me, I get it. What I am saying is that when we really truly want to make something happen, we can and will find the time for it.
Consistency wins, every time. I’ll be honest, some days our practice session was less than stellar. Trying to get a 5 and 3 year old to focus isn’t always the easiest, and for some reason, someone always has to poop right when we get started. But being consistent makes all the difference. R went from barely knowing a song to being ready to play that song in an upcoming recital. We hadn’t even discussed that as a possibility until about half way through our 100 days. And D can tell you all the parts of a violin, including the string names, can play a pretty decent “pepperoni pizza” rhythm, and has a beautiful bow hold, when in September he was still in the beginning stages of learning how to hold his violin. We didn’t make those gains by doing some grand practice sessions occasionally, we made them by practicing regularly and making progress a little at a time. It is so easy for us to think that if we “hit it hard” once a week and then coast through the rest of the week that we will make progress, and unfortunately, that simply isn’t true. Showing up EVERY DAY is how you make progress. And when you show up every day, then missing a day here or there doesn’t totally derail your progress either, you just hop back up and keep going.
We are never too young (or old) to form new habits. This may seem obvious, but I’ve actually talked to a lot of people that have told me they just think they are past the point where they can make changes in their routine. If we want something bad enough, we will make it happen. If a 5 year old and a 3 year old can develop a habit of practicing daily, then we adults can change our daily habits to things that will benefit us. Whether we are 3 or 88 (yes, I have personally worked with people within that age range) we can make changes and form habits and see progress.
So, there you have it. Things I learned from my boys and about 200 “Cars” stickers. And, if you are at all curious, we have 2 new “100 day” charts on the refrigerator and started counting days on December 29th, because I like the consistency, but mostly because R told me that because he filled his chart, he no longer needed to practice. (Maybe we haven’t quite made it a habit yet!)