It's a new year! The first of January is traditionally the time for making our New Year's Resolutions. This is the list of things that we plan to do (or to not do) that are certain to make us a better person during the upcoming year. Did you know that almost 80% of all New Year's Resolutions are broken, usually during the first month!
Rather than making resolutions, perhaps it would be better to set a series of goals for the upcoming year. Our goals can be either long-term or short-term. Recently, one of my students (let's call him McGregor) spoke to me about his performance plans for the following semester: He wants to do a solo performance soon. He wants to play a half-recital. He would like to perform the Tomasi Concerto for the ITG Solo competition. While all of these goals would probably be eventually attainable by Mac (a sophomore), they're not really short-term goals. I think he'll do a fine job on the Tomasi, but not in just two months. The Feb 15 deadline a year from now would be a lot more realistic. And, there are many intermediate goals which must be met in the meantime - like improving his lip flexibility (especially for the Tomasi 1st movement) and his double-tonguing (for the last movement). It has to be a live tape recording too, so his consistency will have to improve.
Attaining specific short-term goals is the key to reaching our long-term goals. For example, the frequent solo performances that Mac is planning will do a lot to improve his consistency. The things that we do in our daily practice routine can be thought of as short-term goals. Mac will need to schedule a series of lip-slurs and double-tonguing exercises into his daily routine and be certain that he is conscientious about practicing them, without fail, every day. Accomplishing these daily goals will pave the way to his successful Tomasi performance a year from now.
Sometimes our long-term goals may be difficult to specifically define. Let's say that one of our goals for this year is to improve our high range. Should we set a "Double-C" as our goal for the upcoming year? I think not. I believe that in setting a "high register" goal it would be more realistic to expect steady, but gradual improvement rather than to set a specific high note as a goal. In this case I feel that if we discipline ourselves to practice a high-register exercise daily, we should expect that our range will gradually improve to the extent of our personal capabilities. In this case it would be unrealistic to set a specific goal which is beyond our own physical limitations.
Hopes and Wishes
We must recognize that there is a difference between goals and hopes or
wishes. These concepts are similar, but remember:
Goals = Wishes + Work
Finally, it is important to realize that "goals are wishes with a deadline". You may set a deadline which is either long-term or short-term; to succeed, however, the goal must not be open-ended. And above all, do not expect that your wish will be attained without hard work.
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