Set Your Goals, Set Your Life

February 21, 2012

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

— Robert Heinlein

I think this is a brilliant quote – so obvious and yet, how many of us get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day living saying we wish we could do this or that or go here or there or get this or that done, but it never happens?  Then we look around and suddenly 5 years have gone by?

There’s a difference between having vision and having goals.  A vision is a goal without a clear objective.  A goal is clearly defined, and the more specifics you put to it, the greater the likelihood of you achieving that goal.  For example, I have a vision of putting out a piccolo CD…at some point.  I know some of the steps I have to take to get there:

  • Selecting Music
  • Learning the Music
  • Finding an accompanist
  • Finding/Booking recording time,space and an engineer
  • Making money to pay for all of it!

And a bunch more steps I don’t know.  That’s why it’s a vision – it’s something I’d like to do, but I have put no action behind it and I don’t have a clearly defined picture of how to get there, nor do I have a timeline.

Now, contrast that with a goal.  These can be big or small, long-term, short-term, ongoing, you name it, but one of mine this year was to be on time for everything.  I have a horrible habit of being late to things and I got tired of that reputation. I want to be seen as a dependable, reliable professional, and being late doesn’t fit that mold.  So, to not be late, I did what I knew I had to do: put my to-do list in order of what NEEDS to be done first and actually DOING it and putting that play-time on the back burner (i.e. surfing the internet, Facebooking, reading).  When I organized my day by planning out what I was going to do, WHEN I was going to do it and making sure I said I was going to leave 15 minutes earlier than normal (this led to my being early if not on time, because inevitably I end up taking a little extra time with things before going, so it all evens out). I was tired of being what the Army calls a “soup-sandwhich”, which is a flaky person, someone who cannot be depended upon.  Don’t be a soup sandwich. 🙂

Moral of the story? My goal, to be on time, had teeth to it.  I made a plan for what I was going to do, gave it specific guidelines and parameters, I made the action to follow-through with it and made it happen.

The more clearly defined goal you have, the more likely you are to achieve it.

You see this one all the time with people on their weight-loss quest. They are gung-ho for a few weeks (or days) then they lose the energy and give up. Not two weeks after starting they are on the couch dejectedly eating their cake and wishing to be smaller.  Sounds ridiculous, but that’s what happens.  What went wrong?

There was no goal.  There was no vision.  The Bible says “Where there is no vision, the people perish”  (Proverbs 29:18) Well, the person on a dieting quest didn’t perish, but their diet sure did, didn’t it?

There was a vague concept of “I want to get in shape” or “I want to lose weight”.  They don’t know how much, they have no concept of the time it will take to get there or the daily choices they will continue to have to make to shift them away from previous behaviors that made them fat in the first place.  They see the immediate thought of “eating healthy” and “I will exercise every day” and if you think about it, those are EXTREMELY vague goals.  What is “healthy”?  When it comes to exercise, without a periodized, progressive plan, you’re just a hamster in a cage spinning a wheel.

Ok, how would one go about changing the situation?

1. Define your goal

What do you want? What do you REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY want? Because if you only kind-of want something, you’re going to kind-of get it.  Do you want to go to Tahiti? Memorize an etude? Play at Carnegie Hall? Present at a national convention? Make $60,000 this year? Be your own boss? Own a Ferrari?  What?

2. Be Specific

I can’t stress this enough.  Vague is “I want a car”, “I want to travel”, “I want to be a better musician”, “I want to be healthier”.  Those mean absolutely nothing.  What KIND of car,  WHERE do you want to travel, HOW do you want to be better, WHAT aspects about your health would you like to see improve?  I hear the “I just want to get better” from my students all the time.  I don’t let them stay there.  In my first lesson with a student I make them write out a list of 1) goals 2)Strengths and 3) weaknesses.  Most of them have never given a thought to any of the three of those.  Having to put meat on them and define them is even harder.  But, as you go through the lessons and both the student and I have it in our heads that we are reaching towards the goal of  “Being first chair next year – which means I need to be able to double tongue, sight-read easily and have effortless phrasing”, well, now we are going somewhere and both lessons and practice time have a purpose. When you know what your strengths are, you can acknowledge them and use them as you work on your weaknesses.  Don’t waste time working on your strengths.

Have a BHAG.  A what?  This is what Jim Collins calls a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”.  Something that isn’t completely far-fetched, but is just barely out of reach that you will really have to stretch your comfort zone to achieve it.

3. Plot the steps you have to take to achieve that goal.

So you have the specifics.  Dorothy knows she wants to go to the Emerald City.  But you have to know what steps you have to take to get there.  She had to follow the yellow brick road. She had to fight the witch, overcome the sleeping poppies, etc.  What do you have to do to reach your goal? If it’s a short-term goal like “I’m going to get up at 5 every morning” well, the first step is to set the alarm for 5 AM. The second step is actually getting up. 🙂

What about something bigger? What about “I want to be my own boss”? If you are already in a job, the foolish thing to do is to quit right now to “pursue your dream”.  Well, you need money to eat, so don’t quit your day job first.  Once you know what you want to do for your own business, read everything you can about being a business owner, talk to those who do it already, learn from older, wiser people than you, and then try it out on the weekends.  For lack of a better example, we’ll talk about my business, Music Strong.

When I graduated from FSU with my Masters and got married (6 days later) I said “I’m going to focus on being a wife for the first year, relax and take it easy for awhile….and then I’m going to work like a maniac”. It happened exactly that way.  Well, once I got rested from finishing grad school and realized how bored I got very quickly in a town I didn’t know with no friends…I could wait a year.  So I threw myself headlong into my hobby of fitness and decided I would pursue that.  I read everything I could get my hands on and then when I couldn’t stand being in the house anymore, I got a job.  In fact, I got two jobs.  I worked at Smoothie King and Vitamin Shoppe and studied for my exam.  I decided I didn’t want to just be a personal trainer though, so I didn’t quit, with no clients.  Eventually I was just working at Vitamin Shoppe, playing in the local orchestras and when the recession hit and my students disappeared, my hours went up and I found myself with less and less time being devoted to music and fitness, my passions.  I realized that my J-O-B was getting in the way of my career.  So, I started to make a game plane.

I decided I would study for a more prestigious certification, one that would give me a much better knowledge base to help musicians, which I had then realized was an under-served population in the area of fitness.  I had found my niche, but I still couldn’t quit.  I got the certification and started applying my knowledge by spreading it around.  I started a blog, a website, a store, I submitted proposals for the Florida Flute Association to present at their convention, I presented at my bachelor’s alma mater, and then at FSU, I gave workshops wherever anyone would let me come, I submitted articles wherever I could and only then, when I started getting clients did I quit.  I had already put forth some of the work, figured out what I would need to do to succeed and kept my day job so we could eat before quitting.  Now, I have presented Nationally (with plans to do so again at the NFA Convention in August in Vegas), have started a boot camp class on the side, am doing online training for musicians (and non-musicians) and have branched out to several more clients.

But in the beginning, I had to know what I wanted.  I knew I wanted to train musicians, I knew that in order for anyone to take me seriously and to trust me I had to have the knowledge base and then I had to share it.  I knew that I wanted clients and to get them, I had to learn about advertising, marketing, customer service, how to keep the books and I learned a lot of that and got a few clients before quitting.

4. Get a Deadline

Goals without deadlines are merely wishes and good intentions.  Give yourself a deadline.  “I will weigh 120 lbs. by July 4, 2012”.  “I will _________ by __________”. Insert your goal and your deadline here, but make sure it’s realistic.  If you are in 6th grade just learning to play and say “I will play at Carnegie Hall by this time next year”, you might want to re-think your goals. 🙂

5. DO IT.

This is where the rubber meets the road and where the doers are separated from the talkers.  By this point, you are already well ahead of the game but it takes determination to still go and actually DO what you said you would do. If you suck at sight-reading, and you know that will give you a much better shot at first chair, you know you actually have to sight-read – so DO IT.  The more you do it, the easier it gets, the better you get at it and voila, you are working at achieving your goal!

6. Tell Other People

This works two ways.  When you tell others, it becomes more of a reality to you and if you have any integrity, your word will mean something to you.  It does to me. I can’t stand it when someone flakes out on me so if I tell someone I will do something, well, I WILL! So not only does telling others keep you accountable (ask them to check in on you and get after you if you aren’t meeting your goals) it gives you a support system.  If you can find other people  who are trying to achieve similar goals as you, then you can serve as mutual encouragment to each other, and there’s nothing more wonderful than reaping the sweet reward of accomplishment while being encouraged!

Need more resources?

There are a few books from which this article was inspired: Jack Canfield’s “The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” and Dave Ramsey’s “Entreleadership”.  There are plenty more but these two stick out to me, because they are so concrete in their methods of how to get it done.  If you are in the real of weight loss and you want some great carry-over principles, Tom Venuto has some great ones.  He has a whole membership forum dedicated to those participating in his challenges, all striving to meet the same goals.  He also harps on the benefits of positivity, clear goal setting and group accountability. In fact, one of his favorite methods is that when I bought one of his book, he sent me a 98-day count down calendar. How great is that?  Why not make yourself out a calendar with your goal date at the end, milestones and check marks in the middle and track your progress?

You can access Tom’s blog here:

Jack has a whole list of printable resources you can get here:

In “The Success Principals” Jack mentions (as does Tom, quite frequently) the power of visualization and goal cards.  Write down your goals on goal cards and store them in your pocket, purse, gig bag, glove box,bathroom mirror, wherever you will see them frequently and go over them. When your goals are in the fore-front of your mind, you become super-focused on them, then, ignoring distractions that takes you away from them becomes much much easier.

Visualization: Jack mentions a vision board with pictures of all the things you want on it.  What has helped me in the past is to find a picture of someone I want to look like and cut that picture out, put it somewhere I will see it frequently. Whatever your goal, you have to find a way to keep it in the forefront of your mind: visualize yourself achieving that goal, what does it feel like to be there, to have that, to do that? What does it feel like taking the steps to get there?

Dave Ramsey’s “Entreleadership”.  This is a FABULOUS book for all of us who want to work for ourselves.  There is a huge amount of business know-how not being taught in music school, so educate yourself.
So after writing this post I can’t talk a bit talk and not tell you MY goals, can I?

I will be honest with you, I am still fleshing out my goals for the year.  The goals I have surrounding my business right now are a little vague, though they are starting to come more into being as I think on them.  That’s another point: don’t think you have to figure it all out at once!  Take some time to understand what you really want, don’t waste your time.  So with that in mind, I would hate to commit to half-formed goals in front of lots of people, like I just suggested doing. The goals I have formed already:

  1. To be on-time, if not early, for every appointment.
  2. I will achieve my Corrective Exercise Specialization (CES) by April 2012.
  3. To be back to my goal weight of 120 (or size 2-4, whichever looks best in the mirror) by the NFA convention in August. (this is way more time than is necessary, but I am building myself in some “forgiveness and learning” room)
  4. By end of 2013 I want to have produced a video series and perhaps a book dealing with the subject matter of Strength Training For Musicians. This deadline might have to be tweaked, because the concept and steps are still vague, but I’m putting it out there!
  5. I want to be hired to give presentations/workshops at least once a month by January 2013.
  6. This year I want to make the schedule to be able to practice at least an hour 3-4 days a week.
  7. I will read the Bible all the way through in 2012.

I have a few more goals in mind, but can’t say here as our current situation is not certain and certain life situations may be changing within the next year, so those will be left to simmer in the pot.

The question comes now to you, what are YOUR goals? I would love to hear year thoughts!

2 Responses to “Set Your Goals, Set Your Life”

  1. Good advice! I love the Canfield book. A great resource!

  2. Thanks Vanessa – I love the Canfield book, too, so very positive and full of action plans.

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