Staying Hungry

June 16, 2011


“A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on.” Proverbs 16:26

Staying focused on your goals is extremely difficult in the age of always “on”. Being derailed from your to-dos and even loosing clarity as it relates to your goals happens far too easily.

Currently I am involved in a lengthy research project, one that is taking years. When dealing with pressures of work, other scholarship, practicing, family, and overall life my goal of completing this project with excellence often disappears. The same occurs for my students working toward performances. It is easy to loose your hunger in times of great distraction and stress.

I love this passage from Proverbs because it reminds me that hunger is what I need to persevere in the times of wanting to give up. The question remains, “how do you stay hungry?” In this context I think of hunger in terms of focus and discipline. How do you stay focused, hungry? How do you stay disciplined, hungry?

1. Write down your goal

I know this is not new information. However, this step is not taken in most of our lives. We often believe that we will get to our goals eventually and never commit to them in writing. The saying goes that “if you don’t have a target you are aiming at you’ll hit 100% of the time”. Write down your goal with as much clarity as you can, the more the better. By clarifying what you want you are more likely to obtain it. I find that reviewing this goal often, and even writing it consistently in my journal, helps keep me hungry.

2. Do something daily toward achieving your goal

I have made a commitment in my current research project to write one paragraph a day. This is my minimum, I can always do more. What this does is keep me focused on my to-dos, my projects. In practicing for a performance or learning a new piece, do something everyday to achieving greatness. Small daily improvements add up over time.

3. Talk about your goal

When training for my first marathon my training partner and I talked about the goal, completing the race, during every long run. Constantly reminding ourselves of the trails we were going to face, the pain that we were experiencing, and how crazy we were for doing kept our hunger alive. Let’s face it, it is difficult to stay “ramped” up for any given period of time. We just can’t stay in a constant state of being “jazzed” about something. We need to be reminded why we are doing something. What is the outcome of my discipline, or lack of? What will happen if I don’t follow through? Who is relying on me to realize my goals? What will I feel like once I have accomplished my goals? Talk about these things with someone you trust and will hold you accountable.

4. Have a system and work it

When I assign pieces of music for my students to work on during the school year most are overwhelmed. Part of my job is to help them see how they can accomplish the work. What I do is provide them with a system. The reason is when life creeps in your schedule gets messed up. Having a system in place of how you are going to accomplish your goal keeps you from messing up your schedule further. If you miss a scheduled appointment with your technique practice move on to the next thing. Your system should be structured in such a way that technique is focused on constantly. Missing one time of technique practice in a week will not kill you. Sabotaging progress on your other to-dos by not moving forward will. If you are constantly missing items in your system you need to evaluate whether or not this is really the goal you want for your life.

What are some ideas you have about staying hungry?


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