The Problem With The Practice Montage

In the first High School Musical movie, there’s a series of scenes where Gabriella and Troy practice with Kelsey to prepare for their call-back audition. They practice individually and together, in secret during study halls and after school (this is the part where Sharpay can faintly overhear their rehearsal and tries to find out what they’re doing).


There’s no reason for this series of scenes to have become so stuck in my brain. I was late to the High School Musical game since my family didn’t have cable, but I remember girls practicing the finale dance routine in the middle school bathroom. I think I’ve only seen the movie once or twice at various friend’s basements, though I did buy the soundtrack from a five dollar discount bin. But somehow this montage has made its way permanently into my brain. This montage-style of practice is somehow how I’ve come to envision working towards my own goals. (Edit: I realized after writing this that perhaps a more well-known practice montage to reference would be from Rocky. But nope, High School Musical is what’s stuck with me.)

I’m constantly thinking mildly ambitious thoughts like “Maybe I should work really hard and get really good at playing the ukulele” or “I bet if I practiced every day I could run a sub-25 5k” or “I’m going to apply for jobs for eight hours a day”. And when these thoughts first cross my mind, I’m super excited. Look at me, setting distant (but not too distant) goals for myself. I know I have the tools to achieve them. It’s not like I’m dreaming enormously big (don’t worry, my crippling anxiety prevents that!). These goals I get into my head are reasonable; if I dedicated time and energy on a regular basis I could achieve them.

But at this beginning of the process, what I’m envisioning in my head is not time and energy dedicated on a regular basis. I’m envisioning a HSM-style montage. I can see myself jogging around the block with the dog, then a jumpcut to me jogging the rail trail with long easy strides, followed by me satisfyingly stretching at home. I can’t envision the evenings where the last hill becomes impossible, the mornings where I’m so sore I can’t get out of bed. I don’t anticipate the not-wanting-to. When I’m looking forward at the new goal, all the negative possibilities get left on the cutting room floor. We see Gabriella hit the high note as Kelsey smiles – we don’t see the ten/twenty/hundred attempts and failures it took to get there.

Then when those difficulties arise (and let’s be real, they show up pretty darn quickly), it’s much too easy for me to walk away at the first thought of  “This isn’t what I envisioned!”. The way that I’ve been envisioning the journey towards success is sabotaging that journey. In reality, the gaps between the montage clips are enormous and that massive amount of time and energy becomes too daunting.

If my visualization of the inevitable frustrations along the journey is too realistic, it makes me not want to begin at all. If the practice montage shows only the highlights and particularly motivational bits, I become frustrated and quit at the first bit of struggle. Where’s the middle ground for this? The closest thing that I’ve found is Lilly Singh’s (aka iiSuperwomanii) vlogs: somehow she vlogs almost every day of her very busy life and she records the frustration and the ahhh I don’t want to do this but I’ve committed to this goal and will thus go do this. This insight shows us the daily hard work that goes into the success of someone like Lilly. It shows that working towards success is not a fun montage of silly rehearsals and fun jogs. There is not-wanting-to and I-wish-I-had. And so when I visualize my goals and how I’ll achieve them, I need to expect those moments and build in ways to get around them.

In the meantime, I’m going watch those sped-up cooking videos where they don’t show any prep or cleaning and thus create a false expectation for how I’m going to cook dinner.




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