Don’t set goals, but develop good and productive habits. One enables you to reach that desired place, the other enables you to stay there.
Good habits = a way of life
Many see the two as interchangeable. But I see them as being significantly different.
Here are the issues I have with goals:
1. The effects of goals are often short-lived. We often move on to the next thing once we reach them.
2. We often neglect essential stuff in pursuit of goals. It does not pave the way to a balanced lifestyle.
3. Most goals are not attainable. Or least we tend to quit before attaining them.
Developing productive habits is different. It’s a longer, more patient path, which tends to produce more favorable outcomes over time. And there is a reason I used the word “outcome” and not “aim.” An "outcome" is a byproduct of habit, whereas an "aim" implies desiring a more immediate result that does not require one to change his or her behavior.
So I’m not suggesting having no standards, only that your positive outcomes result from who you are, not what you set out to do.
Don’t be the kind of person who’s practicing 4 hours a day, getting ready for the big gig. Be the type of person who practices regularly.
Don’t be the kind of person planning a big release in the fall. Be the kind of person who releases recordings.
Look at people who like to go on diets. Guilty as charged! Rather than being the person trying to lose five pounds, be the person who eats healthy and regularly exercises. You’ll never have to worry about your weight again.
One of my frustrations as a younger musician was that I was always trying to get better, rather than being a person who practices in all 12 keys. Or the kind of person who learns tunes, or transcribes, or merely the person who enjoys expressing himself through his instrument. The latter gets rid of the “tick tock” effect. When you’re not so goal oriented, you permit yourself to get lost in the process; consequently, internalizing things on a deeper level.
So become a creature of habit, not a goal-oriented creature. It’s a much calmer and more fruitful path.