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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.