In the last few weeks I have had more than one conversation with my voice students about setting goals. Most of them have achieved the initial goal we set for them at the start of the year, and it’s time to start building on that again. For one or two of them it was a different story. They have not even come close to achieving the goals we set, even though they were essentially in charge of deciding what, how and when they wanted to achieve. 

As a voice coach it would be easy for me to get angry with those students, because clearly they did not put the work in, and thus haven’t worked hard enough. And sadly, that is the most common response from voice teachers to their students who fall short of their goals. The student gets shouted at, belittled and made to feel unworthy. So then the student feels that it’s all way too hard, far too much effort and they just don’t want to do it any more.

Fortunately, I am not one of those teachers.

I am more interested in why my students did not achieve their goals, than berating them for something they didn’t do. Yes, it’s frustrating that we work hard in lessons and they didn’t do anything outside of those times, but it is not for me to judge them on their personal choices, and I will certainly not yell at them or make them feel "less than".

That is counter-intuitive to good teaching and being a good human.

So, what I will do is help my students to uncover why they did not meet that goal. It takes some vulnerability to figure it out, to get under the messiness and the excuses that come with not achieving something.

Initially, it’s along the lines of “I don’t have time” or “Life got in the way” or “I was too tired”, but what we need to do is get under the skin of these excuses - Why are they protecting you? What is their purpose? What is hiding beneath?

When I employ these strategies, eventually we get to the root of the problem when the student feels comfortable enough to share, and sometimes it’s as simple as the goal was too big, or they thought they “should” set that goal.

That’s an easy fix - we can rethink smaller goals that they actually want, not what they think they want or feel like they should achieve. Once we get that out in the open, we can reset the goal and be on our merry way.

But sometimes the reasons are deeper than that.

I have two students who have not achieved the goals we set in January 2024, and it took a bit of deep diving to uncover the reasons why.

For one of them, it boiled down to avoidance and lack of commitment. They did not want to put the work in because it felt too hard to commit to it. Even with lesson recordings and specific homework, they got caught up in overthinking and decided the work was too hard to do. Once they made this decision, it was actually really difficult to come back from. They made a choice that they believed in, and changing that belief would take even more hard work. So they just didn’t do it.

For the other, it came down to a lack of confidence. They just didn’t think they would be able to achieve the goal we set, and decided not to work towards it at all in their own time. They believed that they could not reach the end goal, and their actions then set that in stone, further ingraining the belief they could not achieve it. 

For both of these students, their approach became a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you avoid something for long enough, the work seems too hard to do. If you believe you cannot reach the end goal, you will not put the work in to get there - and they both very truly believed their specific viewpoints. 

For these two, it’s not just a case of setting new goals. Instead, we had to examine the reasons underneath and work with them before we could even think about goals.

If you struggle to keep going when the going gets tough, this is for you.

How to keep going when it gets hard

First - find your why. Knowing why you want to do something is the ultimate key to committing to it. Your why has to be something you want - not a goal someone else has set for you! 

Second - Make a commitment to yourself. We are all so good at showing up for other people but it is always hard to show up for yourself. So write a note to yourself where you commit to the journey and find an accountability buddy to support you.

Third - Take a few minutes to process your feelings around these two steps. Even this early on, you may be feeling some nerves or jitters around committing. That’s totally normal! You can remind yourself that you are here for a reason, and you are committing to something you actually want to do. If it feels out of alignment, dig deeper into your why and reset if necessary.

Fourth - Take a deep breath, sigh it out and set that goal! Write it down and keep it somewhere you can see it. Use the acronym SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-sensitive) to build it out and really work out the small details. Put times in your calendar where you will do the work, put check-in dates in the calendar to monitor your progress, get the notebook and coloured pens out. Whatever it is, set that goal!

Fifth- Make a plan for when things get difficult. I love to revisit steps 1-3 on this - it renews my sense of confidence and my reasons for doing whatever it is I am doing. If you have a plan in place, you can refer back to it and keep moving forward. Plan for every eventuality, every negative feeling, every setback if you have to! But make that plan.

Sixth - Get started, get going, get moving. The sooner you start, the sooner you can reach that goal.

Bonus step - share your goal with someone you trust! Setting a goal is powerful in itself, but saying it out loud and being witnessed creates actual energetic magic. Energetic magic that will support you in your goals and help keep you moving forward.

If you struggle to keep going when things get hard, know that you’re not alone. We all struggle at points in our lives, and some struggles are harder than others. But always remember - you started doing it for a reason and if that reason still holds magic for you, let it outshine the difficulties, silence the shouty inner voices, and smother all the negative feelings. 

If that reason does not hold magic any more, dive deep. Question it - why not? What’s there now? And align that goal for the new reason that does feel right.

What magic will you create today?