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Riley Music Academy Music Cast: How to set musical goals

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Musical goal setting

Happy New Year!

Whatever you think of the ‘new year, new me’ ideology, you can’t deny that it’s a great opportunity to put things behind you and move on. A lot of people can be rebellious at this time of year by saying things like:

“My New Years resolution is to not make any New Years resolutions!”

If you feel better by going against the grain then who am I to stop you? But perhaps ask yourself this question:

Are you being rebellious because you already have a plan and you are happy with your musical progress? Or are you being rebellious as an opportunity to make yourself look funny, cool, righteous, superior or an ‘individual’?  I’ve fallen into all of these traps and for a long time I had a real bee in my bonnet about being different/unique.  It’s human nature to conform but often people choose to rebel because they want to be different.  My attitude has mellowed over the last few years and my intention is different.  Rather than being rebellious and miserable, I conform and stay happier.

Thats not to say that I just blinding follow the crowd but if something works then why not reap the benefits like everyone else.  So, while I might not set myself New Years Resolutions as such, I do review the past year and set myself new goals.

I do this for a couple of reasons:

  • I like to see how far I’ve progressed and give myself a pat on the back.  I listened to a great podcast recently featuring Derek Sivers (more of his wise words to follow over the coming weeks in the #RMAmusicast) and he believes its good to feel smug.  It helps to lift your spirits and move forward.
  • It helps to plan things out in your mind.  Looking into the future can be cloudy, so by placing tangible stepping stones to your dreams/desires it’s useful for the brain to implement action.
  • It helps with continuous motivation – when you break down your goals into bitesized, time dependant actions, it’s a great feeling to tick them off.  I actually physically write them down and put a tick next to it.  It feels great!
  • If I don’t complete a task, it makes me question why.  Was I just being lazy, or was it a dumb idea in the first place?  Or have my intentions changed completely and this task no longer seems so important.
  • When setting the intention to do something, you are far more likely to actually do it!
  • Its amazing how many goals (however far fetched) become reality.

Goal-Setting Step by Step

I recently set my RMA members this challenge:

To review their previous goals from last year and set new ones.

I broke it down into 3 steps:

  1.  5-10 year goals.  These are the big ones and they can be as crazy as you like.  In fact, I would encourage everyone to go wild on this.  Think dreams rather than goals.  What would make you ultimately happy with your music?
  2. Annual goals.  ”By this time next year I will be able to”:  Again, think big but be really specific.  The more specific the better.  Why?  Because, if you right down: “Improve my technique” then in a years time how will you measure it?  If you wrote: “I will be able to play all my scales at 120bpm” then it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer and hopefully (almost certainly) you will put a big fat tick next to it!
  3. Quarterly goals.  This is a surprising sticking point for most people but it should be so easy.  Providing you work in the order I’m setting out here, all you have to do is work backwards through time.  If your dream is to be a concert pianist in 10 years time, your annual goal will be to play all scales at 120bpm, your quarterly goal will be something like: play 3 scales (list which scales) at 80bpm with perfect form and evenness.  The great thing about this is that when you come to practice and think “hmmm…what shall I practice today?”, you open your book, look at your quarterly goals and get to work!

My Goals

I recently reviewed my own goals from 14 months ago and it was a hilarious but insightful time travelling experience.  I would say 95% of my quarterly goals were achieved.  80% of my annual goals and 25% of my big dreams.  I even managed to complete something that I hadn’t even realised was a big goal; I wrote a children’s musical picture book and actually sold a few copies!  It felt really good to look at what I’d achieved over that time and when you are deep in the daily grind and can’t see the wood for the trees, sometimes you need that boost.  It really fired me up.  I reviewed everything, tweaked the goals that I hadn’t completed and set myself new ones.

The Twist in the Tale

Lastly, I want to mention that it’s true that if you set goals then they often become reality but sometimes not quite as you imagined.  Sometimes the universe can downgrade some of your big goals into very humble ones and at other times what you thought was a sidebar goal turns into your next big thing!  You always get where you want to go but never quite as you imagined!

Good luck with it all and I wish you all the very best for the new year.


Want to document your goals online and review them in a years time? – post below 

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