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Riley Music Academy Music Cast: How to keep achieving your musical goals

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How to keep achieving your musical goals

I don’t know if this is just me but do you remember getting a surge of motivation and energy just by buying yourself some kickass new stationary?!

One of students came to me this week with an exercise book, folder, wall planner and some coloured stickers. She had so much energy it was infectious and it made me smile. She’d planned out what she was going to do with her practice and each week she was going to document her results.

wall planner

I remember this feeling vividly at music college when I got myself all fired up ready to tackle a huge project in my 3rd year. The feeling is so great I tried to work out how to keep it.

Unfortunately, at present I haven’t come up with a magic formula but I have worked out how to keep the feeling for longer.

You see, a lot of people get the urge to try something new or get round to that project they have been meaning to start (or finish) but they don’t last past the first few weeks. A lot of people for example live in regret that they didn’t carry on with the musical instrument they started at school and now they’re are in their 30′s, 40′s, 50′s and they think they’re too old. I get this a lot! But I also get the people who are brave enough to give it a go and make the first step. My hat goes off to them as this is by far the most difficult step. I feel it is then my job to guide them and keep them on the right path.

So here are some of my top tips to ‘stay on target’ (had to get a Star Wars quote in there somewhere!)

Goal setting:

I go on about this a lot since I discovered how fantastic it is. It’s so basic – you think of the most amazing thing you want to achieve and then you develop smaller targets to get you to that point. As long as the main goal is achievable then you will often find it comes true. Many of my students have picked – “I want to play a gig”. Some have even picked “I want to play a gig and get paid for it”. And…you guessed it…it comes true! You may not know how or when the goal is achieved but at some point you’ll look back and think “oh, that was one of my goals a while back and I’ve just done it!” By then, you’ll already have your sights on your next big goal to tick off.

Tracking progress:

I find this is crucial. I want to know for sure that I’m getting somewhere. That’s why treadmills have timers and distance calculators. Who would just randomly walk or run on one of those things?!

In the beginning it’s easy. Learning a new language – I know absolutely nothing to “hey, I can say I would like 2 beers please in Russian”. ¬†Learning a new instrument Lesson 1 – “How do you even hold this thing? Lesson 2 – “I can play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy!” The progress is fast and it feels amazing. What’s trickier is to track progress when you are slogging away at the same thing day after day to improve just a small amount.

Think of an Olympic athlete. They are far beyond the Couch to 5k program! They spend all year training insanely hard to shave half a second off their time.

This is where progress tracking really comes into play. It’s like watching your hair grow or the minute hand of a clock. You know there’s progress but it’s hard to see. You must give yourself some documentation to look back on. If you can play a piece at 60BPM and you practice for a week to up it to 65BPM, it’s hard to perceive the difference in speed but your shiny new notebook will say that there’s been an improvement of 5bpm and that will give you a lift. It’s all going in the right direction. Track it and give yourself a boost!

Have fun:

I believe that unless something is fun, you won’t give it the time of day. What you consider to be fun though is personal. The beauty of the human species is that we’re all different. Some people love to work out cryptic crossword puzzles – why?! They are so annoying!!! My good friend (again at music college-must be feeling reminiscent) used to watch C4′s Countdown (actually he watched Countdown completely stoned off his block) and managed to work out the maths question not once but two different ways before the classic theme came to a stop. He used to actually enjoy working his brain like this whereas for me it would feel like my mental arithmetic cogs where ceased and would make my head actually hurt! Sometimes the challenge is the fun bit. What can I put myself through in order to see how much I can learn or how much I can take?! You will know how your mind works and if it’s fun and it interests you, then go for it!

Do not compare yourself to others:

This is a tricky one. It’s very common to think that you are not good enough because someone is better than you. Some people will be better – get over it. You don’t know how they got there. What they sacrificed. What gaps in their knowledge they have. We very often only see the best of what someone has to offer and many have a knack of always making their work seem faultless. There will, however, be chinks in the armour and they will do anything to hide them.

Do not fall into the age trap either. I am a far better student than when I was at school. In fact, I found it really hard to learn at school and much preferred doing stuff on my own. Now I actually get excited about learning new things and although I may be behind on some young musical prodigy… I’m catching up!

I tend to stick to the motto: be better than you were before. This inspires me to challenge myself, not compare myself to others.

So there it is. My top tips on how to achieve and stay motivated. It’s certainly not a definitive list but if I kept going I would probably lose you and that’s not what I want. The opposite in fact, I want to spread the word to as many people as possible. I want to help everyone achieve their musical goals. So if you think of someone who might like to receive motivational musical mastery (!) then please share this.



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