Hey! Where are you going?

In this episode, we talk about your musical path and trajectory, encouraging you to think about your Big Picture Vision and how to get yourself there.

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Hey! Where are you going?

No, really. In your musical life: where are you going?

There’s this scene I’ve always loved in Alice in Wonderland.

Alice is lost in the Tulgey Wood and meets the Cheshire Cat. And she says:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

To which the cat replies:

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

Alice begins to answer “I don’t much care where–” and the Cheshire Cat interrupts her to say:

“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”

Have you felt yourself sometimes feeling like you’re going nowhere in music?

Maybe you’re not progressing as fast as you hoped.

Or you keep changing direction, leaping from project to project, idea to idea, trying to move forwards but somehow never quite getting anywhere?

I want to take you through a simple but powerful exercise.

It takes just a few minutes – but it can bring you greater clarity, confidence and success in your musical life.

Now I could tell you that this exercise will transform your musical life …. but I’m not going to do that – because in just a few minutes I think you will see it for yourself.

What we’re going to do is to set your “Big Picture Vision”.

And before we go any further I want to speak to those of you who heard the word “vision” and started to tune out. I get it. I’m a scientist by background, highly analytical, very pragmatic – and it was only through a gradual process over the years and putting these things to the test myself that I realised that something as seemingly airy-fairy as “setting a vision” could have highly practical outcomes.

As Dr. Stephen Covey once famously put it: You need to begin with the end in mind.

So this exercise is all about getting clear, getting detailed, and getting excited about exactly where it is you want to go in music.

Another disclaimer: This is not about career success. Or maybe for you, it is. But this is something for *every* musician, whether you’re just starting out, or deep into your journey, whether you play music as a hobby, you’re trying to make it a career, or you’re already a seasoned pro.

Every single musician has a unique Big Picture Vision – this is 100% about you and the things you truly care about.

The Big Picture Vision is something we start new members with at Musical U, one of the first things we have them do. And if you’re a member of Musical U yourself you will almost certainly have done this.

Whether you’ve done this exercise or something like it before, I want to encourage you to do it with me now. Because this isn’t a one-time thing, it’s worth doing regularly to keep your musical life on the best path forwards.

So let’s dive in.

As we go through this it’s ideal if you can be making notes. Obviously if you’re on the move at the moment that may not be possible, so I’d encourage you to think about this as we go through it, and then make sure you take the time later to sit and write down or type out all of your thoughts on this. Because actually capturing the result of this process in a concrete form is a really important part of it.

I’ll leave short gaps but you’ll probably need more time, so do please pause this and give yourself time to think or to write every time you need it.

We’re also providing a free downloadable worksheet you can use to make this easy for yourself. Just check the shownotes for this episode at musicalitypodcast.com to get access to that.

The Big Picture Vision exercise begins with a simple question:

Imagine yourself 5 years from now – and everything has gone perfectly with your musical training.

What does your musical life look like?

I’ll say that again.

Imagine yourself 5 years from now – and everything has gone perfectly with your musical training.

What does your musical life look like?

Now you might immediately have answers and ideas popping into your head, or you might not. Maybe you just have a few words or one particular goal you’ve been thinking about.

I want you to try to stay in that space of “Anything’s possible, and everything’s gone perfectly”. Because your brain is going to want to immediately jump to “How would I do that? Could I really accomplish that? I’m not sure I have what it takes” – and so on. We want to totally sidestep that analytical brain and voice of self-doubt, and capture the truest, ideal future vision. And after that we can worry about all the practicalities of maximising your odds of actually getting there. For now, let’s just get 100% clear on the dream destination.

I’d also like you to shrug off any concerns about commitment. I know that for myself, I immediately flinch away from the idea of committing to one particular thing I’m aiming for, especially on a 5 year timescale. So don’t worry that this is set in stone. It can and may well change. But you’re going to find that taking the time to set a clear destination does wonders for your progress, even if it gets adjusted and updated periodically. In fact I’d encourage you to repeat this exercise at least once a year, if not once a quarter.

So now I’m going to ask you a series of followup questions, and the goal is to add richness and depth to your vision.

Imagine yourself 5 years from now – and everything has gone perfectly with your musical training.

What does your musical life look like?

What inner skills do you want, what level and kind of musicality do you dream of having by then?

Do you want to play melodies by ear? Chords?

Do you want to improvise?

How about transcribing, writing down music?

Or do you want to be writing songs or composing music yourself?

Are there particular pitch or rhythm skills you want to hone, or ways of expressing yourself that you’ve dreamed of mastering?

How about instrument skills?

Are there things you want to be able to do on your current primary instrument?

Have you wanted to take up a second, or even a third instrument?

Is singing something you want to develop and add to your skillset?

At Musical U we talk about the trifecta of instrument technique, listening skills, and music theory. So how about theory?

Are there areas of music theory that you know you’d love to understand inside-out? Or maybe the whole of theory is a mystery to you but you’re keen to peek under the hood. Maybe you’ve studied the theory already but in future you want to start applying it to great effect in your musical activities.

Speaking of activities, what will you be doing with all these new skills and understanding?

Do you want to be performing regularly? And if so, what kinds of gigs?

Is collaboration something you’re excited about? Maybe with a partner, or a group, or joining a band, orchestra or choir.

Is it important to you to make money or build a career around music?

Are there particular creative projects you’ve always hoped to one day carry out in music?

How is music appreciation part of your musical life, how are you discovering new music?

Are there genres or types of music you’re eager to explore more? Is there one you’re keen to go deep and specialise in?

Are you listening to music live, on recordings, or in other contexts?

Finally let’s step back for a moment. Reviewing everything you’ve got so far, ask yourself how it’s going to feel when those things become real.

Is there a sense of joy? Of excitement?

Are you feeling empowered and enjoying a new confidence?

Has your identity as a musician changed? Has the way you think about your musical abilities shifted?

What’s the day-to-day experience of music like for you now? Do you have a different relationship with music?

Is there a sense of triumph, of satisfaction, of pride – and of ongoing wonder and curiosity about what you’re capable of?

Write all of this down in as much detail as possible.

Depending on your personality and how much of this kind of thing you’ve done before, you might love this and find it comes easily – or it might feel like hard work! Be patient with yourself and give yourself the opportunity to daydream a little. Remember we’re capturing the ideal – we’re not judging ourselves or the ideas or trying to assess how realistic they are. That’s not the exercise. So let those kinds of thoughts just drift away, and focus on the dreaming, the imagining, the idealised future.

I’m going to say a few things to wrap this up but if you haven’t yet completed your thinking and writing, pause now and do that before we move on.

Okay, have you got it? You’ve hopefully written something that’s at least a few lines, possibly a few pages.

And I’m hoping that as you went through this you were able to shake off that voice of self doubt, or any self-conscious hesitation – and you wrote down what truly excites and motivates you.

Reading back through your big picture vision, you’ll know you did this right if it makes you smile. If you start to feel excitement welling up inside. If it helps put you immediately back into that mental space of “anything’s possible” and “my future musical life could be amazing”.

So what now?

There are two things.

The first is that you want to review this regularly. Reading through it should make you feel good and reignite your enthusiasm and passion – and the value of that is not to be underestimated, because motivation is an essential factor in any musical progress.

Reading through your Big Picture Vision will also help keep you on track towards actually accomplishing it, because as soon as you have this clear in your mind, a lot of the decision-making and uncertainty that can crop up in your musical journey becomes dramatically simpler. Things which before seemed hard to figure out will suddenly be crystal clear to you – because they either align with your Big Picture Vision or they don’t.

So that’s the first thing: Don’t just shove this in a drawer and forget about it. Make it a habit to review it, whether that’s once a week or at the start of every music practice session.

Once Alice knew where she wanted to go the Cheshire Cat could point her in the right direction.

So the second thing to do next is to start taking action to move yourself towards your Big Picture Vision.

There’s value in the vision itself, but clearly it’s going to have even more impact if you actually use it as the basis of goal-setting and planning. We have a unique framework for this inside Musical U, to help you set truly effective goals and the step-by-step plans that will get you there – because it’s easy to do goal-setting and planning wrong and cause yourself a lot of strife! Having a proven system can make it much more likely you’ll actually get to that Big Picture Vision.

But whatever goal-setting and planning process you want to follow, be sure that your Big Picture Vision is now your “North star” that guides it all.

Do that, and you will find a greater sense of clarity, purpose and confidence in your musical life – and you’ll start to see the tangible benefits and results that come from being 100% clear on your Big Picture Vision – and where exactly you’re going.

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