• Dr. Heather Nelson

Starting with "Why"

Updated: Feb 20

Last week I challenged you to set vocal goals starting with how you want to feel about your voice. You can check out that post here. Going a little deeper, though, let's talk about how to set goals that are not only achievable, but really matter and will move you forward.


It is very easy to set goals. The hard part comes afterward, when we have to actually start making the changes that will help us achieve those goals. There are all kinds of methods out there that you can use to break down your goals into mini-steps or benchmarks. Whatever method you choose is totally up to you and your personality. (This year, I'm loving the Powersheets Intentional Goal Setting Planner from Cultivate What Matters.) Whatever method you end up choosing, it has to work for you. That said, it's really easy to get lost in the weeds and lose sight of the main idea. So let's take a minute to think about that right now.

The point of setting goals isn't to achieve them. Not really. Achieving your goals is simply how you craft the life you want. If those goals are not moving you toward the kind of life you want to have, then those goals ultimately are not going to serve you well, and indeed could end up sending you off in a direction you don't intend. For example, let's say you want to pay down your debt. That's an admirable goal, and there are many ways that you can do it. But what's the point of it? Sure, having more money at the end of every month that doesn't go to your creditors is great. But let's reframe that: The reason why this goal is important isn't so that you can have more money, but so you can have a life with greater financial freedom, feeling less burdened from the monthly bills.


Now let's talk about your voice. You can set a goal to audition for ten shows this year, or learn roles for three shows on your own, or learn the entire Beatles catalog. Any of those are worthy goals, but ultimately aren't worth a lot unless they are moving you toward a life of fulfilling music-making. Why would you want to audition for ten shows? It isn't just so you can mark off ten check boxes on your planner, but perhaps it's so you can feel more confident in audition situations and move toward having confidence as a performer. You might learn three new roles on your own time so that you can move toward being a competent singer/actor and build your reputation as a hard worker who can be trusted in the industry. You might learn the entire Beatles catalog so that you can dig into their evolution as artists, which will help you understand and cultivate your own artistic journey.


This can be a subtle shift in how you see and set your goals, but it can make a world of difference in how you work toward them. You see, when you get down in the trenches and are slogging through the hard parts of working on your goals, it's easy to lose heart and motivation if all you've got to do is just check off one more box. But if you can remember why you want to do this stuff, it can help to light those fires of motivation again.


Anybody remember The Goonies? They went through insane obstacles to find One-Eyed Willy's ship. But it wasn't just finding the ship and getting the jewels that was the goal. The larger "why" was to save their house and save their town. Remembering that, and remembering the dedication they had to each other (Goonies never say die!) kept them going.


Plus, having the why as your overarching reason can help you stay flexible. Life happens! And if you only have one vision of what achieving your goals looks like, you may get to the end of it and realize it didn't really accomplish what you needed it to accomplish anyway. By keeping the "why" in your line of sight, you can course-correct as you need to when circumstances change or you realize you need an adjustment. The "why" is your touchstone that will allow you to hold up each step to it and decide if that step is really going to get you there.


What is your why? Take a fresh look at your goals, vocal and otherwise, and decide why working on them is worthwhile. If you find that they don't move you toward the life and career you want to have, then take some time to readjust or scrap them and start over. Share with us so we can cheer you on!


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