No matter where you are in life or what you’re doing with your time, you probably have a goal. Maybe you want to lose five pounds or learn a new language. Perhaps, the goal is broader: try something new. Whatever the case, you probably have something you’re striving to get to and that’s great! It’s important. It’s a reason to get up and keep working at something every day.
I’m pretty sure anytime I’ve read, watched, or heard something about being successful it typically involves not accepting defeat and having defined goals. One problem that I’ve had in the past, though, is that sometimes I don’t know where to go after reaching a goal.
A long time ago, I had this goal: learn the piano. To learn the piano, I would take some lessons and I would play my favorite classical pieces. I practiced as much as I could as often as I could and eventually, I could play those songs wonderfully… but then, I didn’t know what to do. I had met my initial goals and I didn’t have anywhere to go at the time. I wasn’t interested in playing the same songs but there weren’t any other songs that really inspired me the same way.
So, I stopped playing for a long time.
This didn’t last forever as you may have noticed in previous posts on this site. Now, arguably, I’m a worse piano player than I was back then. My hands have a hard time working independently, sight-reading is a chore if I can even read the music at all anymore, and freestyle play is full of accidentals – not the good kind either.
This happened because I had goals. I had very specific goals and a very specific end point and when I got there, I was bored with no where to go. Was I particularly great? Nope, not really, but it didn’t matter because my goal wasn’t to “be great.” My goals were built around learning the instrument and playing specific scores because I grew up loving those songs and just wanted to replicate the sound myself.
Fast forward all of these years and I’m on a different journey. I’m practicing my playing (albeit on a keyboard which is good but doesn’t have that full piano feel) regularly and I’ve started learning a new instrument: guitar. It’s another one of those things I’ve always wanted to do and kept putting off until I had the time. Life never just hands you time, so a few months ago, I finally made the plunge. This time around, I set some goals and am working towards those, but more importantly, my outlook is different.
What seems obvious to me now is that it needs to be less about reaching some arbitrary goal and more about enjoyment of the music. Enjoying the sound of a guitar or piano and wanting to have it make those sounds is a much better reason to show up every day and put in the practice to get better rather than learning how to play a handful of favorite songs. Realizing that practicing these this music is an art and something that brings calm into my life – turns out, that’s more important to me than being able to play any one song.
I know I can’t see the future, but I think this time I’m on a better track. I believe that a few years from now, I’ll be better at playing piano and guitar and I can look back on this year in my life as the turning point – because this is the time when I finally figured out that goals aren’t everything. Sometimes, you need to do a thing just because it makes you happy. And this is my advice to you: set goals but remember to smile and enjoy the thing you are doing.
P.S. Another thing that has helped me is understanding my own limitations. I accept the limited amount of time I can put into learning something new and I accept that it will be years before I’m any good. Accepting that makes everything more enjoyable because I’m not rushing – if I want to spend today just working chord progressions for the dozen chords I’ve learned, then that’s what I do. I get better while just having fun.
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