SMART Goals and Guitars

Has your boss ever told you to make your employee performance based review SMART?  It “sounded like Greek to me” even after I looked it up and tried to apply it. Playing the guitar however demonstrated it perfectly.  Maybe using my journey as an analogy will help you understand the term too.  Or better yet inspire you to start playing /again. 

I never liked that term when I was writing my semi-annual government required performance appraisal.  It was painful to do because it was so contrived, forced and then critiqued for the number of words more than anything.  You can do better than me though. 

A S.M.A.R.T.  goal is one that is Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time based.

The guitar helped me get a win in my life. I needed it.  It was a great example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal.  If playing the guitar is your goal it will allow you to chart your progress which knocks out three of the five points.  The only one left is how important you make it and the time limit you give yourself to make it happen.  You can give yourself too much time to make it relevant or not enough time to make it achievable.

The specific part of it for me was to be able play along with others.  I want to play by ear. I wanted more confidence and the ability to improve. You can measure this easily. To master anything you have to put in the work.  You have to exercise some focus.  You have to want to succeed more than you want to quit.  Quitting is going to come up.  It’s going to appear in your mind as soon as you think you are not doing as well as you should, feel pain, feel guilt for not practicing or start comparing yourself to others.  I think there are some little kids on social media that have stopped a lot of people from following through. 

Taj Farrant

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Your goals have to be achievable to work.  I remember when I hurt my hand and asked the doctor, will I be able to play like Stevie Ray Vaughn now.  Not missing a beat the doctor said, “not unless you played like him before.”  Of course I was joking.  I wish I could magically play like SRV but there’s a few things wrong with that goal. 

The incomparable SRV

(1) There will never be another Stevie Ray Vaughn (not achievable)

(2) SRV was playing the guitar long before I started and put in the work (the time / thousands of hours of practice, visualization) (incomparable and immeasurable)

(3) Dude was blessed with that gift. Since I am not SRV, his talents are not relevant to my objectives.

We are tough on ourselves when it comes to goal setting.  I am living proof that you can still make your guitar / bass playing goals real at your age.

According to Dean (Dean Zelinsky Guitars); “people all over are buying guitars.” Younger people are learning, shredding and making music with a guitar like never before if you look at Fender and Gibson guitar sales.  And even those of us over 40 years old are doing the thing.

I think the pandemic helped me.

Learning the guitar, is a forward-looking process, kindling hope and optimism. You may not know this but it helps regulate stable mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

The process, according to smart guy Dr. Levitin, is “neuro-protective” in that it “requires that you grow new neural pathways — something you can do at literally any age.” He added that “using your brain for something that is challenging, but not impossible, tends to be rewarding, and hence comforting.”

Learning the guitar, he wrote, is also a forward-looking process, kindling hope and optimism, which helps regulate stable mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

This dopamine tells individual neurons to fire off a signal or not. It influences other brain signals and pathways, and essentially, serves as the traffic cop for motivation, emotion, and social behavior. Dopamine is also an important chemical messenger in the brain. It’s the thing that involves reward. It’s motivation. It’s memory. Its attention even regulates our body movements. When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates the feeling of pleasure and reward, and it motivates us to repeat a specific behavior.

I recommend you continue on your guitar journey. I submit to you to consider taking a look at your own life and leveling up.

I am starting to believe that inside of many of us is the desire to be a hero.  I’m using the instrument to help me be mine.  So I am learning to play and repair guitars a little more every day.

Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

― Zig Ziglar