How to Set and Achieve Goals with Your Guitar Playing

We’re approaching the end of 2018 and headed into a new year. Hopefully you’re super pumped that this WILL BE the year that you start learning how to improvise blues and slide guitar more proficiently.

I’ll also assume that you might be really excited about that one piece of gear you’ve been dreaming about getting from Sweetwater this Christmas 🙂 Yes I do the same thing lol I’d also wage that you are probably also thinking about how 2019 is going to be the year that you really start to get serious about improving your blues playing.

This year YOU WILL PLAY LIKE CLAPTON! Or whomever you are trying to play like.

So what happens to most people who start the year off with this type of attitude?

I would say that the majority of people have really good intentions when the new year arrives, but for some reason things just don’t go as planned, and soon they are back at the computer, researching what tubes are best to put in that new amp. Because you can’t play with stock tubes lol. Without the boutique tubes, you’re tone will be lame at best, and you won’t be able to brag on Facebook about how you got “THE” tubes in your amp.

I am having a little fun with these situations, but I bet people can relate to this on some level.

So what goes wrong for the majority of people who set out to accomplish their big goal such as, “Play Like Eric Clapton?”

Here’s what I think happens.

They don’t set their Goals properly. I’m not kidding. As Ziz Ziglar says, “Aim for Nothing and you’ll hit it every time.” This is very true and I’ll even take it a step further and say that if your target is too big, then you’ll probably hit it, but you won’t hit the bulls eye, which is where you need to be to achieve your goal.

So let’s take for instance the Goal of “I want to play like Eric Clapton.” Now this is a very lofty goal and at it’s current state is already setting you up for failure.

I mean you write down that goal, look at it everyday, and it’s just like trying to climb Mt Everest.

What I think you should do is break this goal down into smaller steps that are actually attainable.

Here’s Zig Ziglar’s 7 Steps to Goal Setting

  • Write down your goals
  • Put a date on them
  • Identify the obstacles
  • Identify the people / groups you need to work with
  • Find out what it is you need to know
  • Develop a plan of action
  • Write it down and write down WIIFM – What’s In It For Me

Taking a look at these steps gives us some valuable insight into how to turn that goal of “Play Like Eric Clapton” into some manageable steps that will allow you to actually achieve being able to do this.

So let’s break down this goal using Zig Ziglar’s steps.

1.  Write Down Your Goals – Ok.  This is simple enough.  I want to Play Like Eric Clapton.  I feel like you need to be more specific when setting a goal like this.  Do you want to play solos like him?  Or maybe there’s a particular song you want to learn.  Do you want to learn this song note for note, or just understand how to improvise like him.  The more specific you get, the better a chance you have at achieving your goal.

2.  Put a Date On Them – Here you need to be realistic.  If you’ve never played guitar before, then you’re setting yourself up for failure if your goal is to play like Eric Clapton within 3 months.  BE REALISTIC!  If you don’t give yourself a reasonable amount of time to attain your goal, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. If you’ve been playing for a year or so, then I think that setting a goal such as. “Improvise over a Shuffle Blues like Eric Clapton in 3 months” would be a good goal to set.

3.  Identify the Obstacles – Here you need to define what is prohibiting you from playing like Clapton.  Things such as improvisation techniques, getting the feeling of his playing, scales, vibrato and bending style, how much practice time you will be able to put in,  and how consistent you can be with your practicing.  These are just a few things you can think about when setting this goal.

4.  Identify the people / groups you need to work with. – If you don’t already know what it takes to play like Clapton, then you’re going to have to either find a teacher and have them guide you, or figure it out for yourself.  Trying to figure a bit out on your own is actually a good thing to do no matter if you have outside help or not.  Spend some time listening actively to how the guitar sounds, and how he reacts in certain situations.  It will make you a much better player because of it.

5.  Find out what it is you need to know. – This kinda goes along with the one before it.  In this example you need to know, ( In my opinion) scales, intervals, muting, raking, phrasing, vibrato, singer type licks, and how to improvise.  These are just a few things you could start working on to start playing like him.

6.  Develop a plan of action. – This is where you get down to business and write out a practice routine that will get you there by the date you set.  For example: 5 days a week you will practice for 1 hour on the practice routine you created. This could be something such as.

10 minutes of warm up exercises

10 minutes of Clapton vibrato practice

10 minutes of scales and intervals

20 minutes of practicing Clapton style licks or learning a solo

10 minutes or more of improvising over backing tracks.

You can change the time of each activity if you need to.  After 6 months of focused practice like this, you will see a dramatic change in your playing.

7.  Write it down and write down WIIFM – What’s In It For Me. – I believe this is really important as well. Write down what the emotional impact of achieving your goal will be.  This may be the ability to play in a band, feeling of accomplishment, or the ability to record Clapton style leads on an original song you write.  If you’re already a guitar teacher, then this may be the ability to get more students by teaching Clapton’s style.  That’s what I did.  You could also record a video of you playing Clapton’s style and put it on YouTube. You may get some great comments. You never know unless you put yourself out there.

That’s my take on how setting goals properly can actually make them happen for you.  I have actually done these steps and continue to do them with all different areas of my life and I can honestly say that once I started setting goals like this back in 2007, my entire life has changed dramatically for the better.

I urge you to start setting goals immediately not only with your guitar playing, but with all aspects of your life.  I can guarantee you will see a difference.

I hope your goals become a reality in the coming year. Make a commitment today to set your goals by leaving a comment below.  You’ll be putting it in writing for everyone to see and that’s the first step to seeing them become a reality.

All Access Pass members will receive detailed instructions on how to set goals, create a practice regimen for your playing, and guided help by me and a community of like minded guitarists to help you figure out how to get better. Learn more about All Access Here

3 thoughts on “How to Set and Achieve Goals with Your Guitar Playing”

  1. Appreciate you sharing your wisdom and your dedication to helping us all achieve the satisfaction of seeing our goals become more attainable.
    Keep up the good work !

  2. Thanks John.

    I’m not a member, but purchased your entire set a few years ago. Do you have “dying with the flew” in a Guitar Pro format? If so.. How do I get a copy?

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