In a time where hustle culture has become the norm and where personal hobbies, self-development and creative curiosity seem at an all-time high level of importance, it is easy to spend a lot of time with your headspace filled by thoughts of what ifs and if onlys. It is reflective of a common conscious that the most read books of the last decade were self-help books coded into science-like language claiming the exact steps to help us get more proactive, more productive and more creative.
We have become more obsessed with achievement than any generation that came before us and yet we are a generation that spends the most time seeking inspiration and battling procrastination.
So how can we slice through the haze of expectation and pressure and actually achieve our goals?
Get Specific - What are your goals with music?
The first step towards the outcomes and eventually the life you see in your daydreams is to work out what those things are, in concrete terms. It’s easy to sit back and think ‘I want to be successful in five years’, but unless you can put into words or an image what that success looks like, what its parameters are and what it includes, you definitely won’t get there.
Take a pen to paper for 30 minutes in a stream of consciousness exercise and try to meditate on your goals and future or plan a visit to a life coach or therapist. The aim of all of these methods is simply to begin to decipher what the conditions of your happiness are. Search within yourself to find answers that are concrete, if you circle around something like ‘become really good at guitar’, try to think of a set of people that you think are ‘really good’ and work out what exactly it is about their playing that qualifies them in your mind that way.
It is important that while you are musing on what it is you really want, you do not let judgement of what should drive you cloud your mind. Wanting to be told you are good at something by a certain person can feel like a vanity goal, but it is important to single out these feelings - you can always work out where they come from in the future!
Once you have a few sheets of paper and a closer idea of what it is you are after, try to split and then group your thoughts into three or so concrete goals.
Document all of your findings somewhere that you can return to, ie. a diary or notebook or a note in your wallet or purse.
Get Realistic - What will this goal take to achieve?
“No dream is too big for a person who can accurately evaluate where they are currently” Once you have your goals before you, take a separate piece of paper and write down the requirements to have achieved this goal. Once you have this list it is time for the most difficult part of the assignment, it is time to take a look at your current situation and capacities and evaluate where you are now in relation to these goals.
Be as thorough and as honest as possible, if you can truly immerse yourself in this stage, you will save yourself an immense amount of time and disappointment in the future. Be as ruthless as possible, this is, after all, the beginning of a long fruitful journey and every step you take beyond today will be a step closer to where you want to be.
Work Out How
The next stage in your steps to success is to work out how to get to where you want to be. Write down all of the things that come to mind when brainstorming this thought. Looking at the goal from where you are currently may seem insurmountable, like a giant mountain with numerous steps between where you are and the peak. However, planning your movement forward helps remove the guesswork from the journey. Also, missteps don't mean you have to start from the beginning again.
The road to success of any goal is paved with failures; something that ultra-marathon runner and ex-navy SEAL David Goggins likes to call ‘reconnaissance missions’, you learn through failing, the more you fail the more keenly you align the direction needle on your compass, the more you discover about yourself and where you’re headed.
Plan for Success
If you’re anything like almost all of the musicians that I have encountered in my life, then setting time sensitive goals is nothing but an anxiety inducing external pressure that takes you further from enjoying the creative process, after all, this isn’t going to the gym, if your goals are creative then they require your patience, peace, nuance and happiness - not just showing up for an appointment.
To overcome the fear of failing or the fear of imperfection, schedule in your diary the beginning of each task, but not the deadline to which they must be done. Be realistic about what your practice schedule can allow and remember to listen to yourself and how your body feels as you begin this new exciting cycle.
On this exciting journey towards where or who you want to be, you are going to discover new things about yourself and not just what you are capable of but also what your desires truly are.
Remember that the goals written down at the outset of this work are not set in stone and that you are free to realign your compass at any point, all work and effort invested is never in vain - you ALWAYS learn something along the way.
Enjoy and good luck!