2021 is a new year with new opportunities! The past year has forced us into learning some new tricks, and our hope is that in the new year we can start teaching, learning, and performing like we used to.
When things open up, do you want to do exactly what you were doing before? How do you pick up where you left off? Will you incorporate some of the "new tricks" you learned in 2020" into your future musical career? Will you be able to plan, teach, perform like you did before? And I can go on....
If your anxiety level is ramped up and you're thinking "Boy, the beginning of this article was so optimistic. Why is my heart pounding?" then you are among friends. The fear of the unknown is real! What to do and how it will affect your future are questions that unite everyone in every industry by keeping us up at night.
Though the questions have perhaps multiplied over the past year, these decision making tips will help you pick a direction and start walking away from that anxiety.
Lead with what you know (if possible)
When working with a new student, Denis Wick led with what they did best and branched into new skills from there. You can't feel confident about a decision to do something that sounds great but you know nothing about. When searching for a new mouthpiece, we always suggest that you know what you want to sound like and what diameter works for you (what you know), and add new mouthpieces that introduce incremental changes (what you don't know). Find a section of music to test the decisions and pick the mouthpiece that makes your desired sound easiest. Now apply that to your next decision.
If leading with what you know is not an option, your first decision (before THE Decision) should be what you want to know more about. Of course you will research that which you don't know, but determine what 5 questions you want answered in order to make the decision. Without setting research goals, you are likely to go down a multitude of rabbit holes of information that will lead to more stress and anxiety. If you don't know what 5 questions you should answer, find someone who has experience with what you are trying to decide for yourself, and ask them to help you narrow down your search field.
We still are talking about the unknown here, so even if you lead with what you know, or have answered your 5 questions, the final decision still begs the question.... what if I make the wrong decision. Smash this fear with a simple If/Then statement. When you make your decision, set yourself a goal for "testing the fruit" of your decision. If I decide X then in 1 year I want to accomplish A, B, C (or whatever time limit you want to set) Put this in writing! You might meet all your goals and be very happy, you might realize your decision opened up a whole new set of opportunities that you never realize and you'll set new goals, and you might also realize that the opposite of what you wanted has happened and you know now to take a different path. In any of these 3 outcomes you have demanded a little more control over the unknown by defining a plan.
Set a Time Limit
If you are forced to make a decision in 15 minutes, you will make a decision if 15 minutes. If you give yourself a year to decide, you will likely take a year. Set yourself a time limit and take control of your decision with all these steps. When we played cards in college, a friend of mine would always say "pick one and look at the rest" when someone was taking too long in their play. Even if the decision is easy, there is no guarantee. You never know what tomorrow holds. So choose one, look at the rest, and if you've taken these steps, relax a little and trust the process.