In a recent post aimed at helping musicians achieve goals and learn how to practice more effectively, I wrote about the SMART Goal system. Today’s post focuses on the “A” in SMART. A = Attainable. When goals are put in place, they must be attainable and realistic. That doesn’t mean that a goal should be easy to reach, but it does mean you should know you can achieve it if you put in the work. There are several advantages to an Attainable Goal: — Builds self-esteem and confidence –Makes musicians want to play more often –Puts the person who has achieved the goal in a better mood Goals that require work but are attainable create a positive feedback loop that propels musicians toward more success. Here’s how this loop works: Attaining one goal gives you motivation to attain your next goal. With this motivation, you are willing to keep practicing. Practicing gets you to the next goal faster. You are once again motivated and the entire process repeats itself! Here are two ways to make goals attainable: 1. Lengthen the amount of time you give yourself to accomplish the goal. You may not be able to learn an entire concerto this week, but you can do it in four months. 2. Give yourself intermediate goals between now and the performance. Two examples: (1) play your song at half speed and (2) work out the technical details that let you know how you’ll play the notes–even if you can’t do anything resembling a performance yet. Out of the five SMART categories, “Attainable” is the most difficult to determine. Sometimes, musicians guess wrong. They may think they’re able to learn something that is actually out of reach. Other times, they are surprised by the enormous progress they make in attaining a goal that at first seemed impossible. One thing is clear though: Creating goals that are attainable has a positive psychological impact on musicians and improves their practicing. Forward momentum for musicians is sustained by continuous planning AND meeting of goals. Planning alone is not enough. To meet your goals, make sure they are attainable.