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Improv Tip Week #43-Setting Goals

Here we are at week #43! For me, it’s hard to believe that in a few short weeks we will be at the 1 year mark of weekly tips. If this is your first time to this site…I’d like to welcome you and invite you to check out the past 42 weeks by going to the archives section at the bottom of the homepage. If you’re a returning visitor-welcome back! I hope you enjoy this tip and it adds some value to your improvisation journey.

I was working with a first time Skype Lesson student recently and after talking with them about setting goals, I realized that it would be a great topic/tip to go over with all of you. I ask every first time student I have the pleasure of working with what their goals are in improvisation (well, those that are taking improvisation lessons at least). Most of the students I’ve worked with have had a good idea of what they wanted out of their lesson and the goals they would like to achieve whether in the first lesson or over time. However, I’m finding more students don’t really have a clear goal in mind. Those that teach are probably familiar with these responses: “I want to sound awesome,” “How can I play like (fill in the blank),” and the very popular…”I dunno.”

Those that know me know how big I am into targeting principles (which go beyond chromatic targeting…for more info check out my book). The idea of targeting is to aim at a goal note (or target) with purpose. There are two keywords there: goal (or target) and purpose. But, in this week’s tip I’m not going to be talking about the note goals. We’re going to be looking at what goals should I be setting for myself in my improvisation journey. Depending on where you’re at (beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc) you will have a different set of goals then someone else. Below, we’re going to look at some goal models that will hopefully help you in deciding YOUR goals.

I don’t take credit for this model and honestly can’t remember who the original author is. I remember taking a managment class for my undergraduate degree and have remembered it. It’s called the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting model:

S=Specific. This is the goal itself. It should be answered by WHAT, WHY and HOW. What is the goal? Why is this goal important? How am I going to do it?
M=Measureable. The goal should be measureable, meaning you can track the progress over time.
A=Attainable. Goals you set that are too far out of reach (unattainable), you’re less likely to commit to them.
R=Realistic. The goal should be realistic for where you are at the moment. You should be able to do it, but still should be a challenge.
T=Timely. The goal should have a deadline set for it. This keeps you on track and keeps the commitment from being too vague.

For a student at the beginning of an improvisation journey, let’s look at what some general goals for them might look like in the model above:

S=learn all major and minor scales. (What=major/minor scales. Why=because of their importance in key areas. How=1 major and minor scale a week)
M=It can be measured and tested by learning a major and minor scale each week
A=It’s attainable as long as the student commits time each day to work on that 1 major and minor scale
R=It’s realistic because the student doesn’t already know them, but it gives them a different challenge each week
T=The deadline is at the end of 12 weeks. In 3 months, the student should have a good command of all their major and minor scales.

If you don’t have goals set up for yourself, how will you know you’re making progress? If we set goals for ourselves (short and long-term) then we can start to see our improvement over time. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tip! Please feel free to share it and also to leave some comments on some other goal-setting tips that you use or goals that you’re currently working on!

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