Why setting goals makes you a better musician

This is a guest article by Danish music manager & coach Kat Jarby of Kaja MANAGEMENT

As jazz musicians navigating in the modern-day music landscape, you are often required to be your own booking agent, tour manager, publicist and strategist in order to run a successful career.

With information coming at you from all directions, and an increasing tendency to self-manage your projects, setting goals will actually make you a better musician.

This meaning: if it’s done correctly and ambitiously, you can both develop your career, become a savvier music business person and spend more time on your creative musical output.

The key to goal setting is:

  1. Maintaining your focus
  2. Working cleverly
  3. Planning each step of your career meticulously

This article is based on business coaching theories and, by the end, you will see how you can start setting goals and how you can make a plan to achieve them so you can develop your career and move towards the life you want.

About goal setting

The first step on the journey of career planning and development is goal setting. Setting a goal and making a plan for how to achieve it is vital in a fast-paced, ever-changing modern world.

There are various methods that can be helpful in the process of goal setting, such as the SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based), but the most notable thing to remember in defining your goal, is that it should be:

  • As positive as possible
  • Within your control
  • Something that you are moving towards

You don’t necessarily need a model for that. You just need ambition, motivation and self-awareness.

Attractive goal setting

It’s vital to make the goal as attractive, relevant and realistic as possible, so you become motivated to act on it.

If you formulate your goal negatively (e.g. “I want to stop doing this or that”), the outcome will inevitably also become negative.

The goal also needs to be within your control; you can’t work with things that you don’t have the authority to change (e.g. “My bandmate is stupid and mean”).

A positive spin on your goal creates the right motivation for you to take it seriously and act on it. It also helps you to be ambitious and gives you room to dream.

What’s the point of goal setting?

The purpose of goal setting is to give you focus and clarity about where you want to go in your career.

It can help you motivate yourself on a daily basis to keep moving towards your dream; by setting goals and achieving them you can create the life and career you want.

There are many theories that emphasise the importance of manifesting your dream by writing it down and visualising it. By manifesting our dreams, we obtain the focus we need to reach them.

It’s imperative to set deadlines and milestones for yourself when defining a goal – such as:

  • When you will begin
  • When you plan on reaching your goal
  • How much you should work on it on the way

This way you can easily follow up on your plan and measure your progress.

Try writing it down on a piece of paper, so you can visualise it. Maybe even using a mind map with colours and images if that helps you. Telling a friend or colleague can also help manifesting your ambitions as the process of saying it out loud makes it more lifelike.

It’s essential to be specific, ambitious and realistic when setting your goal!

What is preventing you?

Awareness of what previously has been preventing you from reaching your goals is a beneficial thought process that investigates the underlying causes standing in the way of your success.

When doing a coaching session, we dive into the belief system: stories we tell ourselves and limiting patterns or habits that prevent us from taking action and reaching our goals.

This can also be helpful to think about when reflecting on and planning your career on your own.

  • What is preventing you from reaching your goal?
  • What do you tell yourself are the reasons why you haven’t succeeded yet?

Try to list as many factors as possible. Sometimes the biggest obstacle isn’t necessarily the most obvious. The more it hurts, the more motivated you will become.

And motivation is key in making a plan for your career and actually sticking to it. If it’s not important to you, why should you act on it?

Finding your motivation

Motivation can be divided into two kinds: cost and give.


Cost is everything that you will lose or not be able to do; that has a negative impact on you and your surroundings – i.e. the negative consequences of you not acting on your goal and reaching your full potential.

For example, this could be feelings of regret, disappointment or annoyance.

It might seem like only small costs that will only impact your life and not others.

But we actually become worse colleagues, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, fathers/mothers when we don’t act on our dreams as the negativity and restlessness can have an impact on the rest of our lives and how we behave.


The same goes with give, which is everything that you will gain, be able to do, that has a positive impact on you and your surroundings – i.e. the positive consequences of you acting on your goal and actually succeeding in life.

This could be feelings like success, pride or happiness etc. These also have huge impacts on other aspects of your life and rubs off in a positive way.

This can make you a better colleague, friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, father/mother – and even a better musician!

Don’t act on all your goals

Reflecting on what motivates you is important when developing your career. Without awareness of what motivates you and how your actions impact your life, you can’t break old patterns and move forward with your development, and subsequently your career.

The purpose of this is also to create motivation to either accept the situation as it is or take action.

Not all goals are supposed to be acted upon. Sometimes it’s better to accept the situation, and through that acceptance move on.  Either way is important for mental growth and self-development. Suffering occurs when we don’t choose either of them.

Breaking the pattern

In order to make room for new alternatives, you need to break old patterns, change habits and work on your belief system.

The hard work lies in the first few steps of your career development: goal setting, preventions and motivations.

If you spend time investigating these, the next few steps will fall into place more easily, and you will attain the necessary overview, clarity and understanding of both your challenges and the consequences of your old habits.

The more you reflect on your life and career, the easier it is to know what you need to change in order to make room for new habits and actions that will help you achieve your dream and succeed in life.

When you become aware of new possibilities and resources, you can make the choice between acceptance and taking action and use the new insights to make a plan of action.

Your plan of action

The next step is to find new alternatives and make a plan for how you will move towards your goal. The new alternatives often fall into any of these:

  • Physical actions
  • Mental focus
  • Momentum

Sometimes we need to change the way we perceive things and other times we need to physically do something differently.

Often the key is to make a (new) strategy for what we are already doing and maintain our momentum and motivation for this.


In making a plan of action, the W-W-W+W-W model can be a helpful tool. It’s also useful to have in the back of your mind when writing pitch material, funding applications, reflecting on your practise, planning any project or defining a goal.

The 5 Ws stand for:

  • What
  • Why
  • Whereby (How)
  • Who
  • When

The W-W-W+W-W model provides you with a structure and overview of your commitments to yourself and a career plan.

It helps you to be specific in your plan and in maintaining your focus on what is important and is an essential factor in making sure that you know what you need to do or focus on in order to reach your goal.

Guiding you through the goal setting process

The goal setting, action planning, self-awareness process explained in this article is important for a modern-day jazz musician navigating and self-managing in today’s music business.

It’s a process that will actually make you a better musician as it will help you move towards the life you want, and subsequently become a happier, more content – and maybe even a prouder person.

Defining your goal and recognising both your old, limiting habits and patterns as well as what motivates you is essential for your career development.

Easy steps and tools such as the W-W-W+W-W model can help you on your journey to reach your goal. But visualisation, mind mapping, manifesting and coaching sessions can also guide you through the process.

Goal setting is about reflecting on yourself in your surroundings and the times we are in. It’s to stop yourself being driven by the actuality and reality, and to keep the necessary distance to reflect on your own work and evaluate what you have achieved so far.

It’s a beneficial thought process that helps you stay motivated on a daily basis and teaches you to dream big, be ambitious and to make long-term plans for reaching your goals.

Mark Twain said: “Without dreams and goals, there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.”

Give it a try!

Set goals, visualise and manifest them and make a plan for how to achieve them.

About Kat Jarby

Kat Jarby is a Danish music manager and certified coach. She is a specialist in music marketing from her degree in England and an experienced project manager with more than 10 years in the music and cultural industry.

Kat is the founder of the unconventional management company Kaja MANAGEMENT focusing on experimental music and cultural management. The company represents some of Denmark’s most innovative and visionary artists within the experimental music field as well as manages creative projects often with an interdisciplinary approach and a holistic experience in mind.

Kat took part in the very first Jazzfuel Q&A back in 2017 where she talked about her work as a booking agent and manager for experimental jazz artists in Denmark.

Contact Kat Jarby

You can find out more about Kat’s coaching services and reach her via kajamanagement.com


What do you want to achieve? What are your career ambitions? What is your end result? 📝 Describe your goal – be specific, ambitious and realistic!


Why is it important for you? Why is it relevant for your surroundings? 📝 Describe your motivation for your goal.


How will you reach your goal? How will you take action? What do you need to accept or change? 📝 Be specific in what needs to be done in order for you to reach your goal.


Who can support you in this process? How can you keep your momentum? 📝 If you are working with others it can also be useful to describe and delegate tasks.


When will you begin? When will you reach your goal? What needs to be done in between? 📝 Make a timeline with deadlines and milestones.

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