Ask any young musician what they want to be when they grow up and they might say “I want to be a rock star”, “I want to be the next pop diva”, or “I want to win a Grammy”. In our outcome-based society, where testing scores matter more than learning in public schools and sports teams are glorified (or vilified) based entirely on wins, it’s no wonder that musicians have been caught up in outcome-based goals.

You may want to be the next music superstar like Adele, but it will take more than outcome goals to get there.

What Are Outcome Based Goals?

Goals like wanting to be the best DJ on the planet, writing a symphony, or opening for your favorite artist are outcome based goals. These general goals are often dependent on circumstances beyond our control. While they are helpful in terms of having a bar to reach for, they can often lead to disappointment if we fall short of our goals.

Is it wrong to have a grand goal like winning a Grammy or being the next Queen B? No, in fact having such goals can be helpful, even if we don’t achieve the exact goal we expected. But musicians need to couple outcome goals with process goals.

Having process goals are integral to reaching any long term goal, especially when learning a new skill like playing an instrument, songwriting, or singing.

What Are Process Goals?

For a musician, process goals deal with the nitpicky aspects of life needed to reach your outcome goals. Some example of process goals are setting aside thirty minutes a day to practice your singing, writing a song a day, watching one sound engineering tutorial a day, or practicing your scales.

Doesn’t sound as exciting as being a platinum pop diva, right? But even the pop divas of our world have to meet basic process goals to meet their long term achievements. Here’s Stever Robbins on outcome goals and process goals:

Test Your Goal-Setting Skills

Here are a few examples of goals. Read each goal and guess if it is an outcome goal or a process goal.

  1. Singing the lead in the school musical
  2. Spending fifteen minutes per day on ear training
  3. Singing your scales in tune before lunch five times a week
  4. Getting your band signed by October
  5. Writing a hit song

Did you guess which one of these were outcome goals? If you guessed 1, 4, and 5, then you are correct. You may want the lead in the school play, but without some set process goals like learning the materials or practicing your singing each day, reaching the outcome goal is difficult. Writing a hit song will be impossible without all the hours of daily practice perfecting your lyricism, rhythm, melody, and harmony skills.

Getting your band signed by October is such a broad goal that you will need several process goals to reach the end outcome goal. You may have to set process goals like practicing each night for three hours, booking at least one or two gigs a week in high capacity venues, writing new song material daily, and calling fifteen potential label connections weekly.

If after doing these process goals for a set amount of time you find that you are not getting any closer than your outcome goal of getting signed, then you need to adjust your process goals. For example, maybe you reach out to more music industry connections or increase gigs at places that have high exposure opportunities. Maybe your band just needs to practice more or you need to spend more of your time writing good songs.

Numbers 2 and 3 are process goals. Goals like spending fifteen minutes today on ear training and singing your scales are practical process goals. You can set these each day or each week, but strive to be consistent in your process goals. Be sure that your process goals are working towards your outcome goals.

How Do I Set My Goals?

Setting your goals will differ widely depending on your current skill set, your talents, the pressures of real life, your dedication and resources, and your priorities. What may seem like a plausible goal for one musician may be impossible or even too easy for another musician.

You want to choose goals that are realistic and tangible. For example, wanting to be the next big thing in hip hop may need to be adjusted. Instead, your outcome goal can be releasing a hip hop album nationwide. Your process goals can be working on your craft at least an hour a day, spending thirty minutes each morning promoting your music on various websites, and booking at least two gigs a week.

  1. Make a list of three outcome goals
  2. Study these goals and choose one to focus on for the next six months
  3. Develop at least three to five process goals to help you achieve your outcome goal
  4. At the end of six months, reassess your process goals and outcome goal
  5. If you were able to achieve your outcome goal, then focus on one of your other outcome goals and follow the same process
  6. If you were not able to achieve your outcome goal, review all of your goals and see if you need to adjust

You can use this process for any outcome goal, from writing your first album to setting up a successful national tour for your band.

When an Outcome Goal is Missing a Process Goal

When I was a freshman in college, my outcome goal was acing my required piano class. I already knew how to play the piano but didn’t want to spend the extra time learning new pieces. Instead of developing my skill, I just skated by sight-reading my lessons during the ten minutes before each class.

Did I reach my outcome goal? Yes, I aced my piano class playing easy music. Was that the smartest use of my time? No, not really, although it did free up more time for other process goals like practicing percussion four hours a day.

Now imagine if I had set a process goal of practicing an hour of piano a day. I still would have aced the piano class, but I would have learned something new. This is the problem when we reach an outcome goal without the process goal. The goal is achieved, but it is empty.

When an Outcome Goal Seems Impossible

A better example would be when I decided I wanted to write an animated opera. That was a lofty goal, and it took three years. During that time I had to develop and hone my process goals.

At first the process goals were auditioning a certain number of singers per week, spending at least a couple of hours a day working on the libretto, and developing the storyboard. Eventually the process goals changed to spending a few hours a day mixing down vocals or animating, working a day job each week to finance the production, and designating five hours a week to promoting the opera.

By the end of it, the process goals had changed considerably as the production moved from concept to execution, but in the end I had achieved my goal of producing the animated opera Libertaria.

Finally…Tell Someone!

Any health guru, athletic instructor, or life coach will tell you that there is power in telling someone your goals. Why? Telling someone keeps you accountable to your goals.

Don’t keep your goals to yourself. If you want to create an album, then tell everyone that you are working on the album and describe the process goals you are accomplishing each day to reach this outcome. By telling others, you will be building a support network to help you succeed.

What are your goals? Share your outcome goals and process goals in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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