Category Archives: Goals

Goal Setting: Get SMART

26th December 2016

Y’all, it’s time to get SMART about goals.

Most of the musicians I’ve gotten to know so far in my life have been big, bold, bright thinkers. They have no problem coming up with grand ideas. They dream big. I’d like to think I’m among that group (jury’s out, though).

Being a big, bold dreamer is a great thing! But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of achieving things, they can get overwhelmed with their larger-than-life, abstract ideas and get stuck when it comes to the actual doing of the thing.

The day I was introduced to SMART goal-setting, though? That changed my life.

Set goals you can actually achieve with the SMART method.

In my last goal post (tee-hee), we talked about choosing a single word to define our year. That single word helps us see the Big Picture–our “why” of our to-do list.

Stay with me, y’all, but in this post, I’m about to tell you to.. zoom in.

It’s time to turn that Big Picture into goals that aren’t just nice, fuzzy, grandiose things.

Our Big Picture becomes actionable when we set SMART goals.

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable/Achievable
R – Relevant
T – Time-Bound

Let’s break this down a little.

1. Specific

I’m a creative, which means I can spurt out purple prose and vague nothings with the best of them. I love the abstract and the inexplicable, but those things are liabilities rather than assets when it comes to setting goals that are actually achievable.

For instance, consider the following:

“I want to improve my technique.”
“I want to be happier.”
“I want to grow my savings.”

These are all wonderful things, but unfortunately, they’re not very specific.

Take the second goal on our list, “I want to be happier.”

Well, sure. Everyone wants to be happier. But.. how? What does that mean? What does being happy look like for you?

Getting specific about that particular answer may help you write your question.

2. Measurable

For those of us in creative professions, finding a way to measure goals and progress can be difficult.

We can’t measure success by our audition-to-gig-ratio (every soprano would likely want to die).

How can you measure your goal without relying on a gatekeeper?

What are other ways of measuring success?

Let’s take a look at the “improve my technique” goal. When I’m working on my vocal exercises, day after day, it can be difficult to measure progress or success. You can’t measure an improvement of technique by how many compliments you get or how many auditions you land. Those measures of success rely on other people.

What we want is a measure of achievement that is reliant upon only you.

Take a look at your goals and ask—how will I measure this?

For our technique goal, maybe you say “I will sing my Marchesi exercises for 5 minutes every day for 20 days straight.”

That’s something you can measure.

3. Attainable

We all want to hear “shoot for the moon!”, but the truth is that some goals just aren’t realistic for us at present.

I’ll do myself the supreme honor of throwing myself under the bus.

For instance, it is not realistic for me to assume that I will be singing leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera by the end of next week or even 2017 (unless someone from the Met is reading this, in which case—hey y’all, call me?). It’s just not.

This is a goal that is certainly achievable or attainable in my lifetime. It is not achievable today.

We set ourselves up for failure by expecting too much of ourselves in too short of an amount of time.

Be gentle with yourself and your progress.

4. Relevant

This is like, the crunchy-granola woo-woo letter of the SMART acronym. When setting your goal, ask yourself: “is this relevant to me?”

Take a look at what achieving your goal would mean. If your goal is to land that high-powered internship or Young Artist Program, it may mean uprooting your life. Is that cool with you? Is that who you want to be?

What’s your objective behind your goals? What’s your “why”? (Think back to your Big Picture!)

5. Time-Bound

Creative professions and solo entrepreneurship can suck because at the end of the day, the boss is you.

You don’t have someone telling you to go practice because you have to sing a jury at the end of the semester. You don’t improve your languages because you don’t have a French or a German test. There’s no deadline.

Your goals are dead without deadlines.

Do you know how many times I’ve said I wanted to do something? Do you know how many times I’ve written that something down without a date of completion? Do you know how many times that goal has actually been achieved?

Spoiler alert: very few times.

Give yourself a deadline for your goals. Instill a sense of urgency and importance in yourself. These things are important! You want them! And they’re going to take some work. They’re going to take time. They’re going to take planning and resources. If you want a realistic chance of getting the thing done… buck it up and set a deadline.

An example? Take my “improve technique” goal. Maybe I decide that I want to go through the entire Vaccai book. How long will that take? Sit down and think about it realistically, then write down a date.


Get SMART about your goals, you big, bold dreamer. How can you take your resolutions for this coming year and make them SMART?

Goal Setting: Choose One Word

23rd December 2016

There’s a billion things you want to do and a billion obstacles in your way.

How can you cut through the clutter and clarify what’s important for the new year?

So far, we’ve started our goal-setting journey and we have taken a look back by asking five essential questions. We’ve seen a little bit of what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and we hopefully have a bit of an idea where we (maybe, kinda, sorta) want to go from this point forward.

We know where we are.

And boy, it seems a little messy, doesn’t it?

It’s easy to look at our list of completed goals and unfinished business and see an incoherent jumble. There’s no rhyme or reason, no grouping, no theme.

Cut through the clutter of goal-setting and choose one word to define your year.

Today’s challenge is to choose one word to define your next year.

I am in no way the first person to think of this concept. Many creatives, writers, and visionaries incorporate this idea into their planning and goal-setting.

To name just a few: Ali Edwards has One Little Word®, Susannah Conway has Find Your Word, Gretchen Rubin has a mini-sode of her podcast Happier, and even my dear friend/mentor Jackie Wolven is helping others find their word.

Cool. It’s trendy. What’s the point, though?

Anyone with a to-do list will tell you it’s incredibly satisfying to cross things off of it. It’s rewarding–so much so that we sometimes write tasks we’ve already completed at the top of that to-do list just so we can cross them off (guilty as charged).

But goal setting isn’t about making a to-do list. It isn’t about checking things off.

It’s about the bigger picture.

The weird paradox of goal setting is that in order to achieve the bigger picture, we’ve got to get specific with our goals.

Our lives aren’t lists. They can’t be. Our lives are big picture things.

By choosing a word to define our year, we keep our eyes on our own big picture.

Go back to that jumble of things you wanted to do last year and the awesome things you managed to get done.

What jumps out at you?

What did you want but not get? What did you have that you didn’t expect?

All of these questions can help you find your word.

Maybe your word is “faith,” because you want to explore your spirituality.
Maybe it’s “authentic,” because you haven’t really felt like yourself in a long time.
Maybe it’s “home,” because you’re finally building that dream house you’ve always wanted.

Your word doesn’t have to be an SAT vocabulary word.
It doesn’t have to be anything but meaningful to you.

Your word is short and sweet, so when life gets complicated, you can remain clear on what your purpose is. The Big Picture.

Your word should summarize your Big Picture. What do you want this next year to look like? What do you want to be doing?

More business opportunities or auditions?
More time spent with family?
Less time hustling, more time savoring?
Building relationships with those you love?
Living less out of fear and more out of faith?

Go on, pick your word. Once you’ve got it, share it with me in the comments.

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Goal Setting: Answer 5 Essential Questions

22nd December 2016

You know you want next year to be different.

If I had to guess, you’d probably say you want it to be better.

You’re staring at Different and Better, as if they were exotic, distant locales for your next vacation. You know you want to go there. But how?

To know how to get somewhere, you first have to know your starting point.

Reminiscing over this dumpster fire of a year (shout out to you, 2016) may not be the most pleasurable task, but remember: we’re here to grow, and growing pains aren’t just a thing that you gave up past puberty.

Want to make sure this year is your best yet? Begin by answering these five essential questions to begin the goal-setting process.

1. What did I want to do?

Time to pull out your list of resolutions that may or may not have fallen under your bed. What’s on that list?

Maybe you wanted to:

  • learn new arias for your package
  • pay down a credit card
  • finally open your private voice studio
  • start a blog or website
  • take a vacation to Disneyland
  • lose 20 pounds
  • go to NYC for an audition season
  • read 25 books

Knowing what you wanted to do this year leads us to the next question…

2. What did I accomplish? What went well?

Alright, slugger. What did you get done?

Don’t be discouraged if some of those things are partially completed.

Maybe you didn’t lose 20 pounds, but you did stop eating fast food four times a week.
Maybe you didn’t read 25 books, but you did read four.
Maybe you didn’t learn those arias for your audition package, but you made a list of repertoire.

Give yourself a pat on the back for your small victories this year, and then buckle in and take the next step.

3. What didn’t happen?

We just took a look at what we achieved this year. Progress is progress, no matter how small!

But. We didn’t get some things done.

  • Making a list of repertoire is not the same as learning the music on the list.
  • Curating a Pinterest board of content ideas is a great start, but it’s not starting a blog.
  • Ordering the book of Marchesi vocalises on Amazon is awesome, but it’s not practicing them.
  • Thinking about going to NYC for audition season is A+, but it’s not making a plan to make it happen.

You can acknowledge that you made progress and acknowledge you didn’t achieve the desired outcome.

Saying “okay, I didn’t complete X” doesn’t diminish or negate the work you did toward your goal.

It is, however, doing the most important thing of this work: being honest.

Which leads us to..

4. Why didn’t I do the things I wanted?

Usually, at least part of the answer is obvious.

“I didn’t go to Disneyland because I couldn’t afford it.”
“I didn’t read 20 books because I was too busy.”
“I didn’t start my professional website because I’m not good with computers.”
“I didn’t learn new arias for my audition package because I don’t know what I should be singing right now.”

These are all truths.

You probably couldn’t afford that vacation to Disneyland.
You didn’t have enough time to read.
You don’t know how to work WordPress or Squarespace or Wix or Weebly.
You never asked your voice teacher and other members of your team about the appropriateness of the arias you wanted to learn.

Pause the movie, y’all. I can almost hear the self-loathing from here.

Remove the judgment from your observations. Let’s not ascribe any existential meaning to them.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the “why” of our procrastination that we attempt to undo some massive, abstract concept that isn’t easily remedied.

What I’m trying to say is that for most of us (or at least me, and this is my blog, after all), the reasons “why” we haven’t done something aren’t going to disappear overnight. They may never disappear at all.

We may never be wealthy enough to have the resources to do all the things we want to do.
We may never have enough time to read.
We may never be comfortable asking our teachers for recommendations or help networking.

The good news is that we can circumvent the “why,” even if we can’t get rid of it.

5. Where are you now? What matters today?

We’ve taken a look back at our goals/resolutions. We identified the things that we did achieve, even if we didn’t complete the overarching goal. We observed what we didn’t finish. We asked ourselves why.

“I am so busy I can’t find time to read.”
“I am afraid of asking for help on my aria package.”
“I am a person who doesn’t have the financial resources to treat myself to the things I deserve.”

Now that we know the obstacles that are in front of us, we can start brainstorming ways to circumvent them.

Next up in the series: how one word can make the difference in setting goals. Don’t miss it! Sign up for my e-mail newsletter here: Southern Fried Soprano newsletter.

(This is part of a series on Goal Setting for the New Year. If you missed the first post, learn why I started this series in the first place.)

This Ain’t Your Average Goal Setting Post

21st December 2016

Tempus fugit, y’all. Time flies. We are at the end of another year.

Say it with me:

“Next year will be different.”

This past year was rough for a lot of my friends and neighbors. It was rough for a lot of the world. There is a lot that is uncertain. I feel uneasy about the state of things. Maybe you do, too. Many things are out of our hands.

But then again, many things are in our hands.

If you’re anything like me, you look back at the past year and compare all the things you managed to accomplish with the litany of things that you set out to do in January.

“I was going to go through all of the Marchesi exercises.”
“I was going to revamp my aria package.”
“I was going to research and learn repertoire for that competition.”
“I was going to improve my [insert language here].”
“I was going to improve my network—I was going to make connections.”

So—why didn’t you? Why didn’t I?

The answer is: lots of reasons. Reasons that matter, and, for our intents and purposes, don’t matter a whit for what’s to come in this next season of growth.

There are a lot of people on this here magical Internet who would like you to believe that you will achieve any goal you set.

I don’t do the lying thing, so I’m about to say something that may raise a few eyebrows.

We don’t achieve things just because of our effort.

Man, does that suck. I’m mad about it. You should be, too.

If you try, and you try hard, and you do a good job, you should Get the Thing™. That makes like, sense, or something.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works.

Effort + Heart + Good Work ≠ Achievement

I can’t promise you that you that you’ll get into that young artist program, win that competition, or even sing five arias well at the end of this next month, season, year, whatever.

Those sorts of things involve a LOT of variables. I also suck at math, so don’t ask me for more equations with fewer variables.

What I can promise you is that you definitely won’t come close–not even a little bit–to achieving any of the things you want if you don’t start down the long, sometimes-arduous path of Doing the Work. 

So what?

Over the next few days, my dear Invisible Internet Audience, I am going to share with you a few of the ways that I reflect on my progress, set goals, and begin doing the work to achieve those goals. 

I am a work in progress. You are, too. I’m not going to pretend to have it figured out and I don’t expect you to have it figured out after reading this series.

What I do expect, though, is that you’ll come away with it with a little bit of a clearer vision on how to get just a little bit closer to making this next year a little bit different. 

I keep saying “a little bit” because that’s the key. We’re making things a little bit different.

If you want to join me, and not miss a single post, sign up for my new email newsletter here.

Let’s do this.

February Goals

February Goals

31st January 2016

February Goals

Surprise, y’all! It’s 2016, can you believe it?

Part of me is a little surprised I didn’t inundate y’all in January with posts about my goals for this year. I’m constantly making lists, doodling in my planner, ticking off check boxes.. and my planning for the year ahead usually comes in December of the year before!

This past December, though, I was a lot more introspective about the things I want to accomplish in 2016. Last year, I wasn’t in school, and so the world seemed pretty purpose-barren, if you catch my drift. I definitely was doing things, but my instinct was to Create an Endless List of Things to Do™ so that I didn’t feel I was wasting my life away waiting for something to happen.

Now? I’m in grad school! I am very busy! I have things to do! People to see! Classes to attend! Rehearsals! Teaching! …. Snacking! Snacking to do. That’s probably the most important one, right? Definitely not practicing…

Anyway, the point is that I’m trying to simplify things a little for Good Old Georgie™. My to-do list is already pretty long without me adding to it. I’m stressed enough without me making more things to be stressed about.

I want to do things because I want to do things, not because I have to do things so I can blog about doing things.

But! It’s February and I’ve still got a few pet projects and miscellaneous tasks I’d like to get done in addition to all of the stuff I’m Required to Do. So, without further babble:

February Goals

  1. Blog once a week.

    Did y’all know I have a blog? If you didn’t, I don’t blame you–it’s not like I have written in it. There’s a lot of cool things happening in my life and I want to share them. So why am I not? Because I’m.. a dinkus? Lazy? I don’t know. Probably overwhelmed.

    Regardless, I think this goal is totally doable. And since I wrote about it on the Internet, I’ll do it, because in addition to being a dinkus, I also am prideful and don’t want to fail. So.

    It also goes without saying that I’ve missed the community of my fellow bloggers–and especially the folks at Arkansas Women Bloggers.

  2. Make four new recipes.

    I’ve been on a bit of a wonky, inflexible (I don’t want to use the word restricting) diet this January and I am so looking forward to breaking open my cookbooks again and making some good food. With rehearsals and classes and teaching and life, I don’t think I want to commit to making one new thing a week, but I guess with the whole “four” thing it averages out to that. I have a feeling one week I’ll double up or something (probably Valentine’s Day–I’m finally getting a pantry with like, THINGS I CAN USE TO BAKE???).

  3. Read two books.

    I currently have 20 books checked out of the library. I am reading about 5 of them currently. Basically, this one should be easy.

Ta-da! There you have it, folks. There’s a lot of other stuff that’s going to go down this coming month, so get ready. See y’all soon!

Do you have any goals for February? Share them with me!

July Goals

1st July 2015

southern fried soprano july goals

Rabbit, rabbit. It’s July. One month (well, not even!) left in Little Rock. There’s a lot I want to accomplish–and it’s not all just on my Arkansas Bucket List.

I think I’ll be able to get three out of the five tasks done by the end of this month. As much as I’d love to go to Helena, I don’t think I can afford to get away from work for long enough to make a trip. And to Marianna? Well, we’ll see.. but I’m not hopeful.

The good news is, these places will still be here when I visit. The bad news is that I didn’t finish a list, which is pretty painful for me.

As for my June goal of being more kind to myself, I think I did an alright job. The end of this month has been rougher than the previous weeks, but I think the approaching move is stressing me out, so I’m not too worried.

What about July’s goals?

July Goals

– Read at least 3 books. I’ve been on a roll recently. I started re-reading A Series of Unfortunate Events, so in the past two weeks alone, I’ve read three books. I’ve already accomplished my goal for the year (admittedly, I set the bar pretty low). Follow me on Goodreads and see what I’m reading!

Make something delicious with my harvest from the garden. I’ve got cucumbers coming in, tons of peppers, and I may yet have three eggplants… My tomatoes have been good to me. I can’t seem to grow a zucchini or a summer squash to save my life, though. Oh, well.

SECRET MUSICAL GOAL. Sorry to be so vague, y’all, but I just need to get some of my own stuff in order.

Here’s to July. What are your goals?

June Goals

30th May 2015

bricks-wall-climbing-plant-large

Another month gone! The past thirty days have been packed with a lot of singing and growth.

They’ve also been packed with a lot of fatigue, a nasty upper respiratory virus that I’m only now getting over, and a little bit of General Malaise™.

Not too get too vulnerable with you, Internet, but I find myself feeling more than a little overwhelmed. I feel like there are all these things I want to do–these ideas swirling in my head, ready for me to accomplish–and at the end of the day I feel like I’m too tired to do them.

I feel like I’m not accomplishing much, though I know that’s not true. I know I’ve done a lot. But I’m not being kind enough to myself about it.

So, rather than review how I did on my goals for May (though at quick glance, it seems like I did pretty okay), I’m going to set just one goal for June:

Be kind. To myself, to others.

Just be kind. Give grace to get grace. Give myself the benefit of the doubt. Give others a little leeway.

I know what needs to be done in other areas of my life. I am just going to set this one thing for June. Kindness. It takes gumption to be kind.

May Goals

3rd May 2015

southern fried soprano may goals

Is it really May already? I feel like 2015 just started and soon we’ll be half done with it! Weird. 

Admittedly, I wasn’t very intentional about my goals for April. I rushed in setting them, because, like, that’s what I do–I set goals! I do things! I am a goal-setter.

Which, you know, is cool and everything, until you realize that the whole purpose of setting goals is to try accomplishing them. Instead, I set goals because it was expected.

I didn’t feel any impetus to complete them because I wasn’t attached to them. But let’s review and see how I did.

April Goals

1. Read at least one more book. // Done. I finished Wolf Hall. I actually finished Bring Up the Bodies on May 1st, too, so.. I’ll count that as April. Am I right? GOOD FOR ME.
2. Write at least 5 letters. // I wrote two. Fun fact: I want to write letters when I’m happy & I don’t when I’m sad.  I apologize to all my pen pals. I’m in a lot better state of mind now and hope writing won’t be as laborious as it was!
3. Save $50. (This is really small, but..) // Did this! Now that I know where I’m going to school in the fall, saving is a lot easier for me. When you’ve got something tangible to save for, it’s not so hard to put away money for the future. Who knew?
4. Stick with my eating plan. // I did this. I finished the last round of my eating plan.
5. Go. To. A. Movie. GO TO A MOVIE. // HAHAHA NOPE I AM JUST GOING TO STOP TRYING BASICALLY

So, here’s what’s on deck for May:

May Goals

1. Read two books. (This should be easy [famous last words]; I’m already halfway through one!)
2. Have a wonderful tour for Bremen Town Musicians.
3. Write at least 5 letters (Writing is really important to me and I want to be consistent)
4. Save at least $100. (Let’s up the ante.)
5. Write a blog post at least once a week.
6. Keep up with my money-saving, rebates, & rewards apps (I’ve been using quite a few apps recently to earn points/rewards that I can use for gift-cards for groceries and other items in the fall! I’m planning to write a post about this, so stay tuned.)
7. Keep up with my garden journal. Record daily temperatures.

Do you have any goals for this month? Share them with me! Let’s cheer each other on; I feel life heating up for me and am going to need all the encouragement I can get!

April Goals

2nd April 2015

april goals - southern fried soprano

Sorry, y’all, but I just refuse to post on April 1st out of principle, so welcome to April 2nd, where I will now tell you about the goals I have for the rest of the month! I know you’re excited.

How’d I do for March?

Goals for March:

1. Read at least two books (I’m a book ahead of my overall goal for 2015, so I’d like to keep this up!) // I managed to read one book, which I really loved, and I started another. I’ll call that a win!
2. See one movie in a cinema // Nope. Still haven’t seen a movie in 2015, honestly…. whoops?
3. Give a confident, well-prepared, passionated, joyful audition in Philadelphia. // This I can say, without a doubt, I did. 🙂
4. No email after 7PM. // I would say I was very good about this until the end of the month, when things sort of.. went wonky. But it was relatively successful and considering what an email-obsessive demon I was prior to challenging myself, I’m pretty pleased.
5. Send at least 5 postcards/letters. // Oh man, did I do this. I love sending mail!
6. Be mindful of my spending. // This could have gone better than it did.
7. Be intentional with my eating. // Nope. I sort of forgot I was going to do this at all.
8. Unplug for an hour everyday. // I was doing so well on this. And then I wasn’t. Um.
9. Get one new aria to presentable level. // I didn’t learn anything NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW, but I’m feeling very confident about my newest repertoire. So!

April Goals

1. Read at least one more book.
2. Write at least 5 letters.
3. Save $50. (This is really small, but..)
4. Stick with my eating plan.
5. Go. To. A. Movie. GO TO A MOVIE.

What are your goals for April?

March Goals

28th February 2015

southernfriedsopranomarchgoals

I would say that I can’t believe it’s almost March, but after the busy two months I’ve had, it had better be March, you know what I mean? 

I’ve been thinking about the next month and the sort of things, both physical & mental, I want to cultivate in my life. Even with the snow we’ve had over the past few days, I know spring is on its way and I want to be ready.

Goals for March:

  • read at least two books (I’m a book ahead of my overall goal for 2015, so I’d like to keep this up!)
  • see one movie in a cinema (this should be movie #3 I have seen this year, but I have not completed my goals for February or January–oh well!)
  • give a confident, well-prepared, passionate, joyful audition in Philadelphia
    • Those three things are the only controllable variables. I cannot control the state of my voice that morning. I cannot control my external environment (people or places). I can only control myself and my attitude.
  • no email after 7 PM
    • An exception can be made while traveling.
  • send at least 5 postcards/letters
  • be mindful of my spending
  • be intentional with my eating
  • unplug for an hour everyday (no phone, no social media, nothing)
  • get one new aria to presentable level

I was inspired by Lara Casey‘s willingness to unplug from social media and technology for lengthy periods of time but I’m not entirely convinced I can go all in yet… I’m hoping to dip my toe in the proverbial water and then dive in once I know I can do it (yes, I’m totally a chicken).

What are your goals for March?