Is Your Mind Made Up or Are You Just “Jamming”? – Working Out Your Guitarist Goals

Some musicians are happy to just while away their time wishing they could play better or daydreaming about being a real guitar hero. Daydreaming isn’t a problem but if you want to progress as a guitarist then not having a plan or goal that leads somewhere as well, can be.

You need to have something to aim for. People without goals or targets drift through life and seldom achieve what they want. As Yogi Berra, member of the US Baseball Hall of Fame once said:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else!”

Goals keep you focused on what you need to do to achieve them and they’ll give your guitar playing real purpose. This will become clearer as we continue.

You’ll find that lots of writers talk about goals. I’ve read a lot of these books and realized that they don’t always spell out the right way to set your goals and even less often, how to actively use them to get what you want. So, with this in mind I’ve come up with a foolproof method that I’m now going to share with you. This will enable you to easily achieve the big improvements you’re after as a guitarist.

Pick Out Your Goal

First, we’re going to work out what your aim is. Use your daydream (or fantasy) to decide what kind of guitarist you’d like to be. One reason that you’re not yet achieving what you want can often be that you haven’t thought it through and decided exactly what your goal is.

Perhaps you just want to be able to strum a couple of guitar songs? Maybe you want to feel good enough to play in front of friends or a partner? You might want to tap your creativity and write those songs that have been going around in your head or play well enough to get into a band. You may already be in a band and want to be less of a strumming second guitarist and more of a lead soloist. No matter what it is you want to achieve as a guitarist, take a few minutes to think about this and decide exactly what your goal should be.

Using Less “Fuzz”

It’s important not to be vague or fuzzy when you’re trying to come up with your goals. Something like:

“To be a better guitarist”

will be of no use to you. You need to be more specific and put in as much detail as you can. So, for example:

“To be able to easily and successfully play the solos on Hendrix’s Hey Joe.”

“To be confident and good enough to be playing rhythm guitar in a gigging rock band.”

or

“To play well enough to put great music to the 2 song lyrics I’ve written.”

These are all far more specific and so will be more useful to you.

Set No-Limits

While you’re thinking about and setting your goals, it’s important you don’t let any negative beliefs you’re carrying creep into what you’re doing. When goal-setting, you’re imagining your ‘ideal’ outcome – as if you had no limitations. Like that well-known quote:

“Past performance is not an indicator of future outcomes”

Meaning: it doesn’t matter where you are now as a guitarist, what difficulties or frustrations you may have had up to this point. Approach your goal-setting as if there was nothing to stop you achieving exactly what you want.

Think about why you read this article. Exactly what do you want to be able to do as a guitarist? Then ask yourself:

“How will I know when I’ve achieved my goals?”

Doing this can also help you get more detail into them. For example, if your goal is to be able to play in front of friends, your answer might be along the lines of ‘hearing your friends tell you how great you sounded or asking you for a repeat performance’. You get the idea.

3 Step Goals

One of the problems I found with typical methods of goal-setting is that they recommend people set them to be achieved by a single date at some time in the future. For example, one semi pro guitarist’s goal was:

“Within 12 months to play well enough to be performing in a pro touring band.”

In my experience this approach is a mistake. Your goals will be far more likely to bring you real results if you split them up into 3 ‘stepping-stones’: short, medium and long term, each with their own target date. (NB. You’ll need to know your long-term goal first then work back to establish the earlier steps that will get you there.)

In the example above the goal becomes:

  1. Short term: Apply for a number of auditions for a pro band
  2. Medium Term: Get invited to join a pro band
  3. Long term: Play well enough to be performing in a pro touring band

The idea is to set small but consistent goals over the short, medium and long term rather than just one large one far in the distance. That way you’ll keep seeing progress and stay motivated as each stepping stone leads naturally onto the next.

It’s easy to become disillusioned or disheartened with goals which are set for too far in the future or which seem to be too large a jump to make in one go from where you are currently at.

If you’re only just starting to play for example, you could be overwhelmed by everything you need to learn even if your goal is simply to be able to play one song. But you can use the 3 steps to break this down into:

  1. Short Term: Learning about the string and fret notes
  2. Medium Term: Holding down a couple of simple guitar chords
  3. Long Term: Moving from one chord to the other

It becomes a very different story. What seemed so complicated now becomes something you can imagine mastering.

What sort of time frames should you use? It can vary depending on what you’re trying to achieve but it could be something like:

  • Short term = 1 month time
  • Medium term = 3 months
  • Long term = 1 year

Of you course you might have a pressing need to set it up with a shorter time span, just make sure you’re not being wholly unrealistic.

Goals will work best for you when you get excited just thinking about achieving them. If the thought of trying to reach them scares you too – that can be ok. Use that fear to push you on. Remember what we said before about not limiting yourself?

If you have more than one guitar-playing goal in any time period, that’s fine. Just take care not to overcomplicate your aims. Try to keep it simple, at least to start with.

Writing Your Future Ahead Of Time

Now you’ve got your 3-step goal written down and clear in your mind you’re going to express it as if it’s already happening. As if you’re already ‘doing’ it rather than just “wanting” it to happen. Remember to make it specific by including the names of songs or people etc. This will give credibility and help to trick your mind into believing you’re able to do it. It will also give you confidence because you’ll start to feel like you’ve done it already.

So rather than:

“I want to be applying for a number of auditions for a pro band”

Your short-term goal would be:

“It’s <date in 30 days time> and I’m regularly applying for guitar-playing roles in <x number> of pro bands in <your location>”

Now do the same for your medium and long-term goals.

One further point to remember here – you may find your medium and long-term goals change over time as you progress, that’s perfectly normal and ok. Just make sure you update your written 3-step-goal-plan in sync.

Add More Viewpoints For A Better Effect

There is a way to give your goals even more power. Once you’ve written them down as if they’re already happening (as above), you could now add two extra versions to each step of your goal. Using the same example as we saw above:

The first version is:

“It’s <date in 30 days time> and I’m regularly applying for guitar-playing roles in <x number> of pro bands in <your location>”

Second Version:

“It’s <date in 30 days time> and you are regularly applying for guitar-playing roles in <x number> of pro bands in <your location>”

In the 3rd version you’ll change the “you” into your name in the goal. So, this becomes:

“It’s <date in 30 days time> and <your name> is regularly applying for guitar-playing roles in <x number> of pro bands in <your location>”

You don’t have to use these multiple viewpoints (I/you/your name) to express your goals, but the reason I have mentioned them is that they go further to help your mind create an even stronger impression that your goals are achieved facts. It’s as if your mind is being told you’ve done it from so many different angles that it must be true. When you mentally believe it, you can find yourself starting to automatically search for, and then focus on, ways to make your goals happen in reality.

After you’ve done this for your whole goal you should have nine statements written down. An “I”, a “you” and a “your name” version for each of the short term, medium term and long-term periods.

A well-defined goal is vital to give you something to aim for but it can remain a fantasy without a strong enough desire or ‘motivation’ to achieve it. So, here’s how you develop an unstoppable motivation.

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