New Year's is the time for people to make resolutions and Karen Cheng couldn't wait for January 1 to roll around to start her self-improvement. Cheng, a designer at a San Francisco start up, wanted to follow her dream to learn how to dance in a year. She recorded her progress starting from day one, showcasing her awkward body and stiff moves, and by day 365, she was swaying through a subway station like a seasoned professional. The video, which was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday, already has almost two million views.
Achieving a lifelong dream may seem lofty, but Cheng's video documentation proves that it's possible. She wanted to show that most people don't master something overnight and that the true experts work really hard for perfection. "Usually you see amazing things and react with shock and awe and think, I could never do that. I wanted to make a video of my progress so people could see step by step. People don't record the bad, everyone starts like you, at the beginning, and they just work at it," she said.
You can follow her plan as a guideline for finally ticking a target off your bucket list. Personally, I'll be heading to my local dojo to take a karate class tonight.
- Dream. As a child, Cheng was inspired by dancers who could move like robots; her interest was rooted in a deep fascination with the supernatural and telekinesis. She thought that being able to move like an automaton would be awesome, but accepted the fact that it would probably take too much work to achieve. As an adult, she found a mentor who changed her outlook and told her that she could, in fact, learn how to pop, lock, and drop it like the best of them. Her end goal is to be able to boogie like an optical illusion, and though she admits that she hasn't gotten to apparition status yet, she's surely on her way. Her advice: "If you have a dream and you don't know how to start, start anyway."
- Set goals. When Cheng first started on her journey to become a jitterbug expert, she set attainable goals for herself. In her blog, Dance in a Year, she wrote, "I started with a promise to dance at least 5 minutes every day. When I got more into it, I upped my goal to 14 hours a week, about two hours a day." Cheng remained realistic throughout the process. With a full-time job, she knew that staying stringent with daily objectives wouldn't work but making up the lost time at another point took away some pressure.
- Record yourself. "You'll see things in the videos you didn't catch in the mirror. You'll think you danced well, and then you'll watch it back and be mortified. Embrace those moments—that's when the learning happens," Cheng wrote. She also said that while progress can't necessarily be seen day-to-day, with long-term recordings you'll have proof that change has happened. While technology is great, going the old school route by taking pen to paper is important too. Cheng wrote down everything from time tracking to ideas for improving her moonwalk, which she notes also helped with motivation.
- Speaking of technology…The app Lift helped Cheng keep to the course. The Web and mobile portal chronicles streaks and check-ins toward a specific activity. She said that she didn't want to break the continuity—she's at 90-plus days—and seeing it in front of her with graphs, colors, and numbers pushed her to keep at it.
- Do a little bit everyday. Cheng didn't relegate practicing her craft to the studio. Instead, she said, "I practiced everywhere. At bus stops. In line at the grocery store. At work—using the mouse with my right hand and practicing drills with my left hand."
- Splurge on an expert. Miley Cyrus wasn't born twerking. She most likely had the luxury of a personal poppin' instructor to teach her how to dougie. Cheng, a self-proclaimed "frugalista," found someone with all the right moves and signed herself up for private lessons. The one-on-one instruction made her more accountable for her actions as she wasn't just self-regulating her progress. Totally worth it.
- Really, really, really want it. Most people make sweeping resolutions at the beginning of the year hoping to implement changes in their life. But by the time the seasons start to change these goals have usually been abandoned (I can attest to this—my goal to improve my posture has fallen by the wayside as I sit hunched over my desk writing this). Going by feedback she has received and analyzing her own experience, Cheng said that people should not to be discouraged by past failures. "You shouldn't be hard on yourself because it may mean that you haven't found something that you are passionate about yet."