Do the Work

While driving to Rhode Island on Friday night, I had a bit of an epiphany. I regularly use long solo car trips to loudly sing my way through all of my favorite Broadway showtunes and soundtracks. As I was singing through the repertoire that I’ve sung through hundreds of times, I could feel that my voice was tired, and I didn’t have the range and control I did last summer while I was working on Chess.

At first, I was really upset and disappointed. How could I have lost so much vocal stamina? Why were these songs so hard all of a sudden? What was the matter with me? And then I thought about it some more, and realized that I have done almost zero serious vocalization since Mary Poppins ended at the beginning of April. Sure, I occasionally sing along with the radio in the car, but serious singing, with warms ups and exercises and singing at full volume? Not so much. So how could I be angry with the level my abilities are at if I haven’t been exercising them?

And that’s when something shifted in my head. I realized I have to DO THE WORK in order to get the results. I can’t expect to stay in peak vocal condition if I’m not using my voice every single day like I was last summer. I can’t expect to grow or get better as a performer when I’m not taking voice lessons, or dance classes, or acting workshops. This also carries over into so many other aspects of my life: running, weight loss, professional goals… the list goes on.

This might seem like an obvious thing, but I feel like so often I just assume that things will “work out.” I skip workouts or don’t do vocal warm-ups on a daily basis because I’ve always gotten by without doing these things before. Yeah, maybe I’m not hitting my goals 100% of the time, but I achieve things often enough that it feels ok and comfortable to just back off, not put in the extra effort, not worry about it. But then, those times when it doesn’t work out, I’m left with the icky “what-ifs?” What if I hadn’t skipped that workout? What if I was working on my belt voice these last few months before auditions? I’m tired of wondering after the fact if I could have done something more to be prepared.

Photo Jul 12, 10 23 14 AM

So my new mantra is do the work. Simple, but effective. It’s a reminder that whatever it is in life that I want, whether it’s a new time or distance PR, or a lead role in a musical, I have to work for it. And then, even if things don’t go the way I want or hope, I will know that I did everything in my power to make it happen. Some things are truly outside my control, but I’ve reached a point where I can no longer settle for letting things I really want slide out of my grasp because I’m not willing to work hard.

Do you have a mantra? What is it? Do you find it helps you to reach your goals?


26 thoughts on “Do the Work

  1. Jessica @ Fit Talker says:

    Such a good point!
    For me this really related to running since I’ve now done two half marathons without properly training and done eh. Which I guess is to be expected since I clearly didn’t do the work. Duh!
    Otherwise, no mantras here…although my sister did get me a mantraband bracelet which says “She believed she could, so she did”. So I guess I do have one!

    • Rae says:

      That’s a great one! And I so know what you mean with the half-assed training and mediocre performance. That’s how I’ve felt about my last couple of half training cycles. Here’s to changing it up this time!

  2. Heather [is probably running] says:

    Ha! Me too! I don’t really set very specific goals/new years resolutions, but my goal/mantra/whatever for 2016 is “do the work.” Mine is mostly running related, but this is what I posted back in January:

    “My goal for 2016 can be summed up as do the work. Train hard, but smart. Rest when needed. Eat healthy, drink more water, get plenty of sleep. Put in the miles. Put in the cross training. Get to the starting line healthy and prepared. Hopefully run some PRs, but if not evaluate what went wrong and learn from it.”

    • Rae says:

      I absolutely love the way you put that together. It fits in a lot with what I’m feeling in regards to my running and overall fitness as well.

  3. prairieprincessrunners says:

    I think for me, I learned pretty easy that doing the work means you increase your chances of success (no guarantees obviously), but doesn’t mean I like doing the work. Thus my mantra has become “find comfort in the discomfort.” If you can find a bit of OK in the times where you are doing something that you find really uncomfortable or don’t really want to be doing, it gets easier to do that work you need to do. And, the more your practice finding that “ok” place, the easier to find it when you really start pushing what you felt were your limits.

    Not sure if this is helpful, but it is what helps me. 🙂

  4. txa1265 says:

    Funny how we realize these things, eh? I’m sure that people who heard you sing thought ‘whoa, serious pipes on that lady’, but all you heard was what wasn’t happening. I love your mantra, it is very fitting and seemingly simple yet powerful (like the NE Patriots’ ‘do your job’).

    When we were at Ithaca college for Chris’ orientation the main speaker made the point about how their survey of freshmen found that one of the kids’ biggest hurdles was learning to deal with actually having to do the work. Not only were these kids smart enough that they had coasted through most of the years of school, most of their classes had built-in time for doing tasks and structured feedback … and now they were struggling with the reality that to achieve at the next level they really needed to ‘do the work’.

    I find that I am full of clichéd mantras … 🙂 Here are a few that I regularly think to myself:
    – If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
    – How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
    – Don’t stress over ‘being the best’, focus on ‘doing your best’
    – If you’re constantly the smartest person in the room … time to find a new room!

  5. dgobs says:

    Amen. I need to remind myself to do the work more often!! I don’t have a go-to mantra, but have heard that they can help a lot. I may need to work on that too 🙂

  6. SuzLyfe says:

    Do the work is a great mantra. It isn’t self criticizing, and it isn’t self coddling. Simply put, do the work. Whatever it may be.
    I’m trying to get there myself.

  7. Sophie says:

    So true! “Do the work” is a simple, straight forward mantra that works. I like it! Since I’m training for my first 1/2 this autumn, I keep telling myself “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done” – especially when I wake up at a ridiculous hour to run, hah. It’s really quite empowering! I keep thinking of ‘Pippi Longstocking’ (popular Swedish childrens TV character) as well, who says something similar, maybe even better: “I’ve never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do it” 🙂

  8. Fallon @ Slacker Runner says:

    Love this! So many times it’s so easy to just skate by. But to get something you’ve never had, you have to do something different. I end to get mired in the negative so if I had a mantra- it would “find the shiny”. It’s been forefront in my mind the last couple of years.

  9. Kimberley@Black Dog Runs Disney says:

    LOVE this! It always amazes me that people expect to improve, but don’t take the time or put in the effort to doing the work that it takes to create that improvement. Yes, it’s going to be hard, yes, it’s going to suck, yes, it may even hurt. But if you don’t at least try, then you’re never going to get the results you want. It’s not rocket science, just plain, old fashioned common sense.

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