"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible."
- Tony Robbins
We are just starting a brand-new 2018, so it's Official Resolutions Season™!
If you have not yet done so, maybe you should make up your Resolutions, because this year it will be different, right?
Before starting, here's a disclaimer:
There will be some serious tough love in this article.
If you consider yourself a special snowflake, then it's better that you leave and go back to watching cartoons with fluffy animals in them.
You've been warned!
Why would you even want to set goals?
Just like Tony Robbins says, it's of paramount importance, and given the fact that he is very well known and famous, then it must be right.
Here's the thing. We tend to do poorly when we are not working towards a specific result.
I know, we usually do poorly in any case, but it's even worse when you don't have a clear objective. Trust me. I know.
You need to ask yourself:
Do I even want to spend time practicing this wizardy craft that may or may not work?
Should I be doing something else with my life?
What do I want to do with this six-stringed instrument from the Forces Of Hell?
If your answer to the first question is not a definite, scream-out-loud YES, then you should probably go somewhere else. Philosophy is on the last door to your right.
If you are considering the answer to the second question, then I'm afraid I cannot help you, though I can recommend a good therapist if you need to.
If the answer to your third question is anywhere like: "I wanna rock everyone's ears off until they bleed and love it, and come back begging for more", then you have my congratulations!
It doesn't matter what others say or think, it just matters what YOU want to do. Establishing your goals will be one of the best things you can do to make it as a guitarist, as it will act like a beacon to draw you closer to your dreams.
Well, maybe not that much, but it will still be pretty good. Trust me.
What do I need?
Not much. You need something to write (your computer or phone will be OK, but you can also go old-school and use some pen and paper -- they don't bite), 10-15 minutes of our time, and your brain, which you usually take with you.
How to set your goals
I have two suggestions to set goals that I find the most effective: the easiest, and the trickiest.
The easiest way out there is by choosing a specific song you like.
Let's say you are a life-long fan of Guns 'n' Roses, and you love their songs. You could choose one of them, let's say "Paradise City".
The reason why you would want to choose a song is because it will give you a definite final goal for you: you want to learn to play that song to perfection.
Usually, songs include many techniques and tricks, many of which you usually don't have mastered, and it is here when you can tell why it's so useful. Especially if you want to play in a specific style, be it of a band or a specific player, defining your goal on a specific song of that artist or band will set you up for going in the correct way and not detour every time you see a shiny object.
You'll first need to learn the song, for which you can use tabs, chords diagrams, or else. Once you identify the techniques you need to learn for that song, you can play and see where you are lacking, and only when you can finally play the song to perfection it is that you can see some real progress. This will both make you much happier and boost your motivation to keep going.
Another way you can set your goals is song-wise too, but with a twist: you can set your goal to write one song a month.
This one is quite trickier than the first one. For learning a song, there's always a simple blueprint and list of skills you can come up with, but doing a creative process is different, as it is, by definition, not formulated.
Although writing songs for most players, even myself, is an open ended task, it helps a lot to constraint it in time. If you do not push yourself to a fixed schedule, you run the risk of always leaving it for next week. Even if you have a busy week, this license can quickly turn into a habit, which in turn comes dangerously close to making you never achieve your goals.
That's my challenge: if you are already a pretty good player, set yourself a creative goal. I recommend one song per month, but you can select a different period as long as it is realistic and reasonable (not one song a day, or one song a decade). Doing this will help you focus on what you want to achieve.
So, what's it going to be for you?
Hold yourself accountable
After you've chosen your goal with a realistic and reasonable deadline, it's time to get to work.
OK, sure, but how?
The exact details will depend on your goal, of course, but there is one thing that you must take into account:
Whatever you need to do, you must do it with consistency.
It's no good to practice for 10 hours one day and then nothing for weeks. You need a certain degree of frequency to stay on track and not deviate. If you are not good at holding yourself accountable, then you just might be a good candidate for external accountability.
What that means is, of course, somebody else holding you accountable for your deeds, who won't shrug it off if you don't do it.
Just like many people like to go to the gym with a friend to hold themselves accountable when they don't feel like going, so you can apply the same strategy for your guitar goals. Sure, it won't be exactly the same, but you can use the same principle.
Let's say you choose to write one song a month, and then plan to release an EP by the end of the year. This would be a pretty good goal for an intermediate player. One thing you can do is to just announce it on your social media:
"Hey guys, I wanted to let you all know that I've decided to write one song a month this year, and by the end of the year I'll release an EP for all of you to hear. If I fail to do so, I will buy each and every one of you a coffee every month. You are hereby authorized to kick me in the butt if I do not fulfill my promise."
Now that's curious, huh?
I bet you will have a whole army of people after you if you do not live up to their expectations, and so will you feel much more obliged to do what you wanted to do.
Does this sound a bit extreme? Maybe.
Will it work? Very likely, if you do it right!
If you really want to make it, then you can certainly try this. You can use the template I just gave you as inspiration to write your own ;-)
The most important thing
It's important to go on with the right mindset. Just like Master Yoda said:
If you are going in, go in head-on and full-on. It's the only way to have a chance of fulfilling your goals, which is what you really want, right?
Do not set goals for no reason. Do so because you really want it.
If you don't really want it, then why bother about it at all?
Do not expect the good things in life to happen if you do not bust your rear part off. It just doesn't work like that.
Whatever you do, make sure you stay on target.
Let me know of your goals, and I'll hold you accountable.
Yes, I won't let you go off that easily.