A former student of mine reminded me the other day of something I taught her many, many years ago. I wrote this statement down on a piece of paper for her and she said that she put it up on her bedroom wall where she could see it every day.
“An unwritten goal is merely a wish.”
Then, just the other day as I was preparing yet another ‘moment of teaching’ on the topic of goal setting, I came across this statement:
“A goal without a plan is a wish.”
Very similar, wouldn’t you say? So, I combined the two statements in preparation for meeting with my students in a few weeks to discuss our goals for the year.
“An unwritten goal, without a plan, is merely a wish.”
In writing my book, Six Word Lessons for Exceptional Music Lessons: 100 Lessons to Enhance the Parent, Teacher and Student Relationship, I found myself mentioning some sort of goal-setting experience quite often.
Presenting the topic of goal-setting, I like to start with the bigger picture and refine it down to specifics. For instance, start with a vision. In the music world, a student’s vision might be, “I want to be a great performing pianist.” Every music teacher alive loves to hear those words come out of their student’s mouths. But how much can actually be accomplished if we stop with just the vision?
Let’s refine that vision into a goal, specifically a longer-term type of goal, such as, “I want to be able to perform, from memory, at my school’s talent show this year.” See how we are starting to be a little more specific? It can’t stop there. We need a plan. Plans are like short-term goals. Plans must be specific and measurable. For the absolute best results, we can be accountable to someone to help stay on task, and have a ‘check in’ as to how we are progressing with our plans.
“Goal setting is essentially beginning with the end in mind. And planning is devising a way to get to that end.” (M. Russell Ballard, American businessman and religious leader)
After my students have set their goals and plans for the year, I like to touch base with them often, sort of have a personal progress interview. This gives them a chance to be accountable and it helps them to stay on task. I had a student who set a goal over the summer to complete a certain piece before heading off to piano camp, as well as staying on top of the selections she has chosen for competitions in the upcoming year. She kept a little journal with dates and what she wanted to have accomplished by those dates. In conjunction with her journal (plans), she kept a practice log to help her stay on track. One summer lesson she came a little bit unprepared, so I asked her, “How are you doing on your plan? Are you keeping up?” She replied that she had slipped a little bit on some of the pieces. I couldn’t believe what a difference it made when she began to deviate from her plan. Those specific and measurable plans really help with progression!
Lesson #62 – Practice log to stay goal-focused
Keeping a practice journal or practice log is a great way to stay focused on your practice goals. Don’t just keep track of the days and minutes you practice, but jot down notes on what you have accomplished and what you still feel needs some work.
As we venture into a new school-year of fabulous music lessons, teachers and students will benefit greatly if they take some time to discuss goals and plans. All will be richly rewarded.
Sally Palmer owns Sally L. Palmer Music Studio in Bellevue, Washington. She has over 40 years experience as a piano and vocal teacher and coach, and is an accomplished accompanist. She is the author of Six-Word Lessons for Exceptional Music Lessons.