A Musician’s Guide To Goal-Setting

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The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao Tzu

It’s important to write things down that you don’t want to forget. Consider that the single step in your journey.

Consider all of the to-do lists you write and the calendars on which you scribble appointments. Perhaps you are one of those organized people who carries a planner with all of that information in one place. Or maybe you prefer to keep your notes and appointments in other, more handy locations: on hands, napkins, backs of envelopes, and bits of paper.

Whatever strategy works best for you, I strongly advise taking some time to write down something very important: your goals as an artist.

The reason we need to do this is because it’s so easy to come up with a goal, fix it firmly in our minds, then lose sight of it a few months later. We then wonder how we got so off course, when only a short time ago the goal was the most important thing to us. The answer, of course, is that life happened to us in the meantime, and we didn’t write down what we wanted to achieve.

Fortunately, this is an easy problem to fix. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Get something substantial to write on. Use a notebook or diary. (Napkins won’t do here; you’re going for permanence.)
  2. List all the things you want to accomplish as a musician. Want to record a CD? Write that down. Thinking of teaching guitar lessons? Put that on the list, too. Keep writing, no matter how impossible the goal seems.
  3. Put the list aside and go do something else for awhile. This is important.
  4. Critically examine each goal on your list. If it seems reasonable to you, commit to it by putting a date on it. If it’s too vague or if it seems too pie-in-the-sky, cross it off.
  5. compassWrite out a statement for each goal. It’s well and good to say you want to make money from your music, but that’s not a strong goal. Make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) Try it this way instead: I will earn at least 50 percent of my annual income from performance, teaching, and merchandise sales by December, 2013.
  6. Post this list where you can see it every day.
  7. Do something every day that will help you achieve your goals. This may be something small, like creating a Facebook page to keep your fans informed about your performances. The important thing, however, is to do something.
  8. Review your goals on a regular basis. This can be each year, quarter, or month. Evaluate your progress by measuring it (the M in SMART). Do you need to revise your due date? Or maybe the goal is no longer attainable or relevant. If that’s the case, remove it from your list.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of reviewing your goals on a regular basis. Not reviewing them is like deciding to fly north in an airplane but never checking the compass on the way. Eventually you’ll drift off course, you’ll lose your way, and you’ll wonder what happened.

I’ve put together a short list of resources and articles that can help you achieve focus, success, and satisfaction with your music and in your life. But these resources can only go so far. Ultimately, the only person that can make this happen is you. Remember: goals that are not written down are just wishes.

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Resources

Books

1. The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management, by Hyrum W. Smith. Well worth your time.

2. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. The “why” of time management.

Articles

1. “Are You Reflecting On Your Goals As an Artist?” by Marcus Taylor

2. “Steps for Successful Goal Setting and Achievement” by Paul Christenbury

3. “Zig Ziglar on Goal Setting” by Ziglar Training Systems. Contains a link for downloadable goal setting pages.

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Image credits: Top –  Flickr  Bottom – Flickr

Updated July 15, 2013

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