If you are thinking about taking music lessons, or you’ve started taking lessons and you’re finding it difficult to stay on track and improve the way you want to, it’s helpful to set some goals for yourself. One excellent way to do that is by using the SMART system. Paul L. Meyer, in his book Attitude Is Everything, gives us a good description of how to set goals for yourself that will produce excellent results.
What Are SMART Goals?
The word SMART is an acronym for the following words: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. While the system can work for many different areas of your life, it will help you immensely in your music goals.
It’s always a good idea to have a precise idea about the goal you want to accomplish, rather than having a general idea. A specific goal will answer the five “W’s”: Who? What? Where? When? Why? Many students begin their guitar lessons with the thought, “I’d like to get better at playing guitar.” However, if you set a music goal for yourself that says, “I want to learn these chords so that I can masterfully play this song for this event,” you’ll have narrowed down at least one of your objectives for learning how to play the guitar. This focuses your mind and prepares you to achieve your goal.
How do you plan on measuring your progress as you work toward playing a piece, or whatever your goal might be? Part of measuring your progress is breaking your goal down into smaller pieces. What chords do you need to learn? What are the steps you need to take? Are there any foundational chords you should learn that will help you learn chords that are more difficult later on? Measuring your progress will help you feel that sense of accomplishment and will fuel your fire as you move toward your larger goal.
While setting goals is very important, it’s equally important to set goals that are attainable. So, if you’ve just picked up a guitar today, it’s not realistic to believe that you will be playing in a band by the end of next week. Even the most seasoned musicians had to take the time to perfect their skills. So, set music goals that are easily attainable within a reasonable time frame. Your instructor will be able to help you in that area, if you’re unsure.
Consider the music goals you want to accomplish. Do they matter? While it might be tempting to skip this step, it’s one that requires some thought. For example, if you love a certain Christmas song and you’ve always wanted to play it on the piano in front of your church congregation, yet you’re beginning your lessons in January, it might be better for you to focus on learning a song that could be played during the church Easter production instead. You can always pick up the Christmas song in October and prepare it for Christmas. Likewise, if you want to learn guitar, it doesn’t make sense for you to spend all of your time playing the clarinet. It might sound a bit silly, but relevance is important. And testing your music goals for relevance will help keep you focused on working on music goals that matter.
Time should always be at the front of your mind when you’re considering your music goals. You want to be sure that you give yourself enough time, but it’s equally important to be sure you don’t give yourself too much time to complete your goals. By giving yourself too much time, you run the risk of becoming bored with your instrument. This is a skill you’ll learn and hone as you continue in your lessons. You’ll grow to understand how much time you need to reach your goals, and you’ll probably learn how to push yourself a little harder in your practicing and lessons to meet your own deadlines.
The SMART Combination
When these five principles are combined, the results can be astounding. As a musician, you will learn much faster when you’ve given yourself something to aim for. It doesn’t matter if you’ve decided to take lessons just for fun, or if you have aspirations of becoming a world-renowned musician. If you’re taking music lessons, you have a love for music that’s driving you to do something about it. Making music goals the SMART way will give your love for music more of a compass. As you put the SMART principles to work for you, you’ll find your love for music growing even more.
Photo by Christophe Verdier