In the last post, I wrote about why having a plan for any goal you want to accomplish is beneficial. In this post I reveal the three necessary ingredients of any plan.
Every plan sounds like a good plan. But if every plan were a good plan Indiana Jones wouldn’t have been captured trying to recover the lost ark, Dorothy wouldn’t have been swept up into Oz by a tornado and Columbus wouldn’t have ended up in Haiti instead of the East Indies. That isn’t to say accidents can’t turn out to be serendipitous, but the best plans are indeed carefully laid.
Whether you’re trying to scale Everest or learn your first harp piece, your perfect plan must have three critical components. If you miss just one of these, you are putting your objective at risk. You might compare it to finally getting to the front of the security line at the airport and realizing you left your ID at home on the kitchen counter. Possibly not a fatal mistake, but a critical issue nonetheless.
Let’s look at the three ingredients and how they might be part of your plan for musical achievement or growth.
Every plan needs its reason for being, its why. Without a clear destination, the path is going to be uncertain and indirect. When the objective is in focus, it is easier to discern the mileposts that need to be met to stay on track and the skills or tools you will need along the way. Dorothy needed to get to the Emerald City and her path was clear: follow the yellow brick road.
A musical purpose may be easily identified: a piece to learn, a technique to conquer, a performance to prepare. But the true purpose may lie deeper. The ultimate goal may be self-expression or creativity. It might be a sense of accomplishment. It may be sharing beauty and healing through music.
Dorothy’s ultimate purpose was to get back to Kansas, to go home. The deeper significance of her journey provided her with the strength to persist past the dangerous obstacles she encountered. Similarly, your why is the most powerful part of your plan.
“Someday.” “One of these days.” Those are plan-killer words. No plan can exist in “someday” mode. A plan has a timeline, an end date and checkpoint dates along the way. Without the accountability of a timeline, the plan will never happen.
We’ve all encountered a situation in which we have figuratively “missed the boat.” An opportunity vanished because we didn’t act on it promptly. Accomplishing any objective works the same way. When we have a timeline or a “due date,” our energy stays high. We can see the next step on our path in front of us and we know we need to be ready to take it. That motivation to meet the deadline provides the impetus we need to get it done.
That’s why having a plan for your practice is so essential. Your practice plan will give you the steps you need to take that day in order to stay on target with your goal. Your practice plan is rooted in your timeline, and of course, your timeline is tied to the purpose you want to achieve. It’s all part of your plan.
Every traveler needs a guide. Would you visit a city in a foreign country without a map, a GPS or at least a map app on your phone? Of course not, but the do-it-yourself culture would have us believe that we can do anything ourselves, from building a birdhouse to designing and constructing a log home.
This is why high-stakes players in the business world routinely have business coaches and mentors. Even the CEOs of major corporations understand that they can benefit from the wisdom of an expert whose unbiased viewpoint can sort through the complexities and show them the leverage points. When all you can see is the problem, the obvious solution is invisible to you.
In music, our guides are our teachers, coaches and mentors, those expert teachers and players who have already traveled the path we want to walk. Their guidance is what will keep us from wandering down a side path that looked promising.
I’m guessing I didn’t really need to tell you this. Like me, you probably know which of these three ingredients you have in place and which are the hardest for you to define. In the words of Star Wars mentor Yoda, “Already know you that which you need.” All you need to do now is fill in the missing pieces.
Now it’s time for you to create your plan or refine one you already created. What are your answers to these questions:
Share your answers (or your questions) in the comments below!