Performance Anxiety and SUPREME Goals

Setting good goals and working those goals will help performers feel more confident and assured that what they practice will be accessible on the stage.  Goals give performers direction, help motivate them toward success, and increase confidence.  Setting goals will also help performers keep their attention on what’s important by identifying strengths and challenges.  Good goals can improve the quality of practice and focus in both practice and performance.

Many things can hold performers back—distractions, anxiety, need for more skill, doubt, lack of confidence—when the real issue may be lack of direction.   Have you had any of these thoughts:

  • What am I doing here?
  • I get distracted very easily.
  • There’s not enough time in the day to get everything done.
  • I don’t know how to get what I want.
  • I don’t feel motivated.

If you have thought any of the above, look at your goal setting.   You may have heard of setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely), however, as Rosalene Glickman writes in her book, Optimal Thinking, SUPREME goals may make more sense for you.

SUPREME goals are:


As you can see, both SMART and SUPREME goal setting begins with the need for being specific.  Specific goals produce specific outcomes.  Fuzzy goals produce vague or fuzzy outcomes or no outcome at all.   Goals such as “to sing/play professionally” or “to be a good player/singer” are too vague.  Examples of specific goals are “to sing or play a professional gig by the end of the year” or “to practice for 20 minutes, 4 times each day for a month and then monitor progress.”


When you set goals that lift you up, the rewards you reap by achieving them will offset any price you pay to reach them.  Often performers will want to beat this or that performer at a competition or audition.  This way of thinking will not be uplifting and will drag you down.  Your goals don’t have anything to do with other people.  Your goals are about you and your performance.  Having goals that inspire you to work hard and be a better musician and performer is what goals are all about.

“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals—that is, goals that do not inspire them.”    —Tony Robbins


Paramount goals epitomize your most important values, needs, and desires.  Paramount goals require your best efforts.   When what you are working to achieve is your heart’s desire, you will be highly motivated to work diligently to achieve it.


Here too, reachable or attainable are common characteristics of effective goals.  The goals you set for yourself and your performing need to be realistic.   When you know that your goals are within your reach, you will feel motivated and energized to do the work.  How can you know if your goals are reachable—who decides?  It is important for performers to balance their desires and goals to excel with feedback that they get from teachers, coaches, and other professionals in their field.  This feedback is invaluable evidence that you need to factor in when determining whether your goals are reachable.


Goals can be set for a variety of circumstance:  outcome (auditions, competitions), practice (frequency, specific skills, rehearsals), and mental (dealing with doubt, distractions, & working on confidence).  It can be very exciting to work yourself up for your outcome goals, but not so much for practice and maybe you haven’t even thought about goals that concern the mental aspects of your performing.  It is important to work to make all aspects of your practice, preparation, and performing exciting.  In practice, perform more.  In performance, play or sing for fun—viewing mistakes as a detective looks at clues.  Learning from them and solving the problem makes for exciting progress toward reaching your goals!


It is important that you know when your goal has been achieved.  It must be measurable.  A goal of being the best you can be is not measurable.  Performing your new concerto’s Presto movement twice every day for two weeks is a measurable goal.  You can also use your goals as checkpoints along the way.   The goals themselves can serve as good monitors to evaluate your progress.  Another way your goal needs to be measurable is by time frame.  For a goal to be effective, it should have a time limit.  Ask yourself:  How many?  How much?  How will I know when I’ve achieved this goal?


If you are setting appropriate SUPREME goals, you will bring joy to the attainment of your goals—the process—rather than just get joy out of the outcome.  Dr. Glickman tells us that “Enjoyable goals are the tangible results of the joy you bring to them.”  Of course, she also reminds us that what we enjoy doing is usually what we’re best at.

Make sure you write your goals down.   Writing your SUPREME goals down helps clarify your thinking and purpose and keeps performance anxiety at bay while keeping you in a confident performance state.  Refer to your goals often.  Modify them when you need to.  Goals that you write down and refer to often keep you on track.

Check in next week when we continue our discussion of SUPREME goals and talk about the next step in deciding where to start, working your goals, visualizing your goals and their benefits, and using your calendar to help you achieve your goals.

Let me know if you would like to work with someone on setting SUPREME goals and making a plan to work these goals in your performing.

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