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#137: How Not Setting Goals May Save Your Harp Playing

music and meaning Jan 01, 2024

Happy New Year! It’s the first morning of a new year and I am feeling, as I do every new year, that sense of excitement and possibility that inhabits those empty calendar pages.  I can hardly wait to see what 2024 will bring. 

Since this podcast is going live on New Year’s Day, I thought it was particularly appropriate to talk today about goals. We talk about harp goals a lot at Harp Mastery® but today I actually want to elevate our viewpoint and look at harp playing goals with a broader perspective.

SMART goals - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based - have been the gold standard of productivity experts for a while. Those five criteria combine in a way that makes success look almost like a mathematical certainty. They feel powerful because they are so concrete.

But music isn’t like that. Music is about creativity. It’s not about following rules, it’s about choosing which ones you want to follow. It’s not about creating cookie cutter results; it’s about developing the experience and confidence you need to create the same piece of music over and over again with each time feeling new and fresh. So when we try to create SMART goals for our harp playing, it can feel like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Sometimes clear and well-designed goals are helpful. We use them in our coaching programs to help keep the coach and the harpist she’s working with stay on the same page. When the expectations and desired outcomes are clearly stated and referenced regularly, there is more traction and progress comes more quickly. 

However, that kind of system is less helpful for most harpists working on their own. We have a tendency to over-design our goals or resolutions to the point where they are restrictive and create a cycle of failure rather than of success. Just think about a daily habit you’ve tried to instill. Everything goes along well for a while and then there’s one day when you break your streak. That first time you might get back on track quickly, but when that next slip comes you may be off track for a couple of days. That’s when the guilt sets in and pretty soon you’ve all but given up. 

Giving up does not sound like harp happiness to me, which is why we are talking today about un-smart goals, goals that aren’t aimed at making you toe the line but are created to give you freedom to pursue what you love, playing the harp. That sounds like a guaranteed success plan for 2024 to me!

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected] 


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