Setting Goals: 3 Tips for ‘Keeping it Real’

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Are you are feeling a little lost in the woods with your music-making?

A great way to reign yourself in is to set specific goals. Goal setting is a great tool to plan for the future, and for motivating oneself to do the necessary work in order to achieve the goal.

From the Mind Tools web site:

Creating and planning out goals can help you choose where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that can, so easily, lead you astray.

Why should I set goals for myself?

Goal setting is a common technique used by successful people in almost every profession. Top athletes, artists and business people alike all use goal setting as a means to an end. It focuses one’s attention on self-improvement and especially on the means to attain that improvement.

Besides the obvious benefit, reaching a set goal can inspire an extra boost of confidence and a sense of personal pride. Reaching one goal can lead one to aspire for even higher goals; it can have a cascading effect.

Getting started

This video from the same Mind Tools resource has some excellent suggestions for getting started.

Three Tips for ‘Keeping it Real’

There is really nothing new or revolutionary about this topic of course; there are a number of resources on the Internet to draw from. That being said, here are a few big-picture tips to help keep your head on straight and your sanity intact.

1.) Be realistic and honest

You really do not do yourself any favors by setting unrealistic goals with unreasonable timelines.

A long time ago (at band camp) I encountered a trombone student who was absolutely determined to have a solid high range in four weeks. His primary means to achieve this goal was to practice more and to do 1,000 sit-ups every day.

While he did gain some impressive abdominal muscles, he did not improve his high range in four weeks. His only accomplishment was to exacerbate his frustrations. He ended up only compounding the problem.

The lesson from this story is that goal-setting takes logical and reasoned planning. Rome was not built in a day goes the old saying, and that wisdom certainly applies towards tackling big issues like the high range.

2.) Create a plan

Dividing goals into three categories can help to separate what is immediately attainable from what will take some more time and planning.

  • Short-term goals
    What is immediately attainable if I just work a little differently on this one thing?
  • Medium-term goals
    A big performance is coming up and I need to be sure that I have enough endurance and embouchure strength to get through it and not hurt myself.
  • Long-term goals
    I want my horn playing to feel freer and easier.

A useful tool in creating and planning out termed goals is journaling. Writing down your goals takes them out of your head and into a medium where they can be looked at more objectively. It can also help you to monitor and diagnose your progress as the work is being done.

3.) Keep your mouth shut

This is probably the most important tip in this topic.

An ounce of humility and discretion can go a long way towards achieving a goal. The mind is a tricky place and research shows that when we speak our goals out loud in a determined manner, we are actually less likely to achieve them.

As the embedded three-minute video below illustrates, when we brag to others about our big plans, this talk can trick our minds into thinking that the goal has already been accomplished.

Telling others about our big plans actually lessens the chance that we will do the necessary work to attain the goal.

One only needs to think about the annual tradition of New Year’s Resolutions – and their success/failure rate – in order to understand and appreciate this concept.

Myself, I have yet to lose 40 pounds.