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Learn How to Set SMART Goals for Musicians

goal-settingGoal setting in music and goal setting for musicians is something that I wish I personally invested more time in developing early on as a budding bass player. To have had even one or two goals in mind of where I wanted to be as a bass player and musician after a period of time would have done a tremendous service for me. It would have added focus for me and given me a spear point and direction for where I wanted to be in however many months and what I really wanted to achieve as a musician.

Goal setting in music is something that is thrown around pretty haphazardly and the fact that it is is only detrimental to the people being instructed to set goals for themselves. Like goal setting in general, it can be a term that’s prefaced with “Go set some goals for yourself!” and your question becomes: “How?”

Poor goals can lead to a tremendous blow to self esteem if done wrong, but when done correctly, the feeling of achievement, personal success and overcoming can beat even the best feeling you can think of.

So in this post, I want to provide some tools with regards to what REAL goals are and how to set them for yourself so that you become guided and focused as to what you really want out of learning bass becomes a reality.

Real Goal versus Fake Goal

A real goal has the following qualities to them:

1. It is Specific. The goal is designed with a particular ends in mind. In other words, what are you working towards? What do you want to get in the end?

2. It is Measurable. You’re not simply throwing ideas into a vacuum and hoping for the best. How are you going to make sure that you are on track to achieve  your goal by your self-imposed deadline? This metric is for you to determine based on what you are looking to achieve.

3. It is Achievable. This aspect is very important! This ties back to the point I was making before about goals working against you. If you shoot too high – say, “I want to play Bonnaroo in a month” – you’re likely to be disappointed that that is a relatively achievable goal for most. When examining this aspect, it helps to think in 2 dimensions: long term and short term. What is the long term – the ultimate goal you’re looking to achieve and the short term – what can I achieve today that will move me towards the long term ends? How about tomorrow?

4. It is Realistic. Like the Attainable quality, it is important to really be cognizant of what you can realistically achieve and what you can realistically do on a consistent, day by day, week by week basis to work towards your ultimate ends, that thing that you really want to learn or what you really want to become.

5. It is Timely. The goal is operating on a time table. Akin to when you’re at work and your boss gives you a deadline for something to be done, that is what making a goal has an “endpoint” in mind. But rather than someone else setting the end point for you, YOU are the one determining when you think you can get this done by.

A “fake goal” is anything that does not meet these 5 parameters. What makes goal setting so powerful is that when you apply these 5 concepts and commit yourself to working towards it on a day-by-day basis – even for just minutes a day – you can achieve literally anything. The toughest song becomes simple work; working to play out more becomes child’s play; working to buy that new, expensive Wal or Rickenbacker becomes something more than just an “I wish” and becomes an “I can”.

So give this a shot. Take out a piece of paper and write down something you really want and think you can achieve. Then write out what you can do right now to get yourself going towards it. Then plan out the week. Then the month.

Congratulations! You’re well on your way to learning that challenging bass line or saving up for that new pre-amp module.

Now how hard was that?

For more cool information on goal setting, check out this link to an overview of the forerunners of goal setting theory, Dr. Edwin Locke and Dr. Gary Latham