We know that goals are a great way to focus our practice time. If you have joined our 30-day Pledge to Play: 10 Minutes A Day challenge, you have been concentrating on short-term goals such as learning a difficult musical passage smoothly, or memorizing a short piece, or learning the minor 7th chords in all 12 keys, etc. But what about when the Pledge is over? Just as after a weight-loss diet, we have to create an enduring plan for maintaining the good practices we cultivate while working towards our musical goals.

When in maintenance mode we might speak in terms of intentions rather than goals. Life coach/author Jennifer Louden writes that the word intention comes from the Latin “intendere” which means “to stretch toward something.” Louden suggests that while a goal drives you toward a future outcome, an intention helps keep you in the present. Louden writes:

 The goal feels positive, but closed, almost a should, and it doesn’t inspire the imagination nearly as much as the intention, which feels open-ended, expansive, encouraging….

Instead of, or in addition to setting a goal such as, “I will learn this piece in 60 days,” you might want to form an intention, such as, “I am folding piano practice into my life at least four days per week.” Or, “I am exploring improvisation in my piano studies this year,” etc.

Write down your intention. Then come up with a structure to support it. You can adjust your expectations and intentions as you go along, but a written intention and structure acts as a roadmap. For example, if your intention is to explore improvising, the structure might be scheduling weekly piano practice in your phone calendar, planning monthly visits to jazz concerts, reading a book about improvising, and listening to improvised music. Whatever your intention(s), find a structure that you can embrace. Setting unreasonable expectations is counter-productive.

When you have to leave town and won’t be able to practice, set an intention to put practice aside until you return, and name the date that you will resume your practice routine. That way, your travel becomes part of your intention, and not an aberration.

When days or weeks pass in which didn’t fulfill your intention, let regrets go. Start fresh the following week doing your best to reinstate your structure. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about process. Keep it light and enjoyable. Intentions are about how you want to live your life.  Your intentions are driven by your values. A little guilt is ok if it keeps you aligned with an intention, but don’t let yourself slide into shame and negative self-talk. 

Cambria, CA

Be brave enough to live creatively…. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You…get there…by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: Yourself.      –Alan Alda

I hope you are enjoying newfound resolve during our 30-day Pledge. I am in beautiful Cambria, CA. And though I am missing my piano, I am playing the accordion at a music camp, and enjoying the resplendent beauty of the central coast. And I am writing, which is one of my favorite creative pursuits! I hope you are enjoying a beautiful winter’s day wherever you are. With love and music, Gaili

I love your comments! Please share any thoughts you have about goals vs intentions.


4 Replies to “GOALS vs INTENTIONS”

  1. Thank you, Gaili. You are a true teacher and coach~taking us from where we are and pulling us forward to where we intend to be. Your blog post was insightful and provided a new view – for me – of the word intention. I experienced an “a ha” toward my practicing; as well as personal and work intentions, too. Thank you for sharing!
    Dr. AnnRené Joseph
    P.S. My practicing is going well. This week will be practicing all sections together for fluency. Yea!

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