Setting goals when learning an instrument is a longstanding practice with excellent results, so who am I to argue with success? We have all been counseled to set SMART goals for ourselves: Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. But what if we start setting SMART-ER goals? We can set Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, Timely goals that we then evaluate and reward ourselves for completing.
Set a goal that stretches you but doesn’t require you to run a marathon. Someone who is not a runner would set a goal to run a mile or a 5k long before they decide to run a marathon. We must also set achievable goals for ourselves when learning piano. If you are excellent about practicing a few days a week, but not in a row, setting a goal for a 7-day practice streak in Piano Marvel would be an ideal place to start. If you find yourself in a position like me, where you can be going along great on practicing every day, but then fall off after a few weeks, maybe a longer goal is a great plan. I have been able to practice 17 days in a row, but when that 3rd weekend came around, I spaced practicing and felt sad that I hadn’t made my goal of 30 days. In this case, a more realistic goal would be 21 days, taking it up a notch without making it so hard to commit that I feel discouraged or overwhelmed. I know several of our students have streaks more than two years long, but if I told myself I want to practice every day for two years, I don’t think I would ever start.
Frequently, we tend to think in absolutes. A week, a month, a year, but less often, we consider two weeks, three weeks, or a month and a half. Be realistic about your life and habits, but don’t let yourself off the hook too easily. Customize what works for you. Many customers tell me they don’t feel like practicing some days, so making themselves practice for just 2 minutes helps them keep their streaks. If they want to stop, they stop, but sometimes they are motivated to play longer because they don’t feel forced to do so. An ideal amount of practice would be 30 minutes or more per day, every day. However, in real life, rarely is everyday ideal.
Let’s also normalize rewarding ourselves for meeting or exceeding our goals! One of the ways to reward yourself might be to buy yourself a Piano Marvel streak t-shirt. We have designed a clever and fun new shirt for those people who want to show off their streak. It is available at musicmarvel.com/store in the Apparel area. Another way that some students of all ages reward themselves is to post about their latest achievement on the Piano Marvel Facebook User Group. There, others can celebrate with you as you hit your milestones and share their goals. Some teachers reward their students with candy, small toys, money, etc., for their students. A teacher in Canada gives each student tokens for their practice and other goals, and then they can cash them in during specific days of the year for prizes from her “studio store.” As an adult, I think we can still be motivated by rewards, but a streak t-shirt or maybe getting ourselves a new set of headphones to use with the piano or some new sheet music might be the way to go for us.
Not setting a goal can leave you feeling aimless and wondering whether you are doing well enough. There are many types of goals to set, days in a row, passing a certain level in the SASR or Method and Technique, being able to play a certain piece of music that you love or playing a certain number of minutes each month. Please think about what might work best to motivate you, and set yourself a prize reward for when you meet or exceed your goals. And, as always, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] any time you have questions, ideas, or suggestions!