Gosh, this is pretty good!”
As I approached the end of 2022, I stumbled across a worksheet I made for music students at the University of Tennessee during the COVID-19 lockdown and thought to myself, “gosh, this is pretty good!” – so I decided to do it for myself.
There have been so many changes in the past few years. Even without a global pandemic, life brings different seasons at a pretty rapid pace, so when I came across this worksheet I felt it might be useful to see how my thoughts about my own work have evolved since I first wrote it.
I’m publishing it here for you, and would love to know if it’s helpful to you in your thinking about your own work.
The intent is that users return to it from time to time, using it as a tool for self-reflection, re-calibration, and purposeful, strategic decision-making that will lead the direction of future work.
I invite you to block off some time to make yourself a quiet cup of tea, or head to a cafe or somewhere peaceful or beautiful to do this worksheet.
To inspire you, this is the kind of view I usually seek when doing this kind of deep work, maybe with something a little stronger in hand to sip... ;) (It's a special occasion, right?!)
This worksheet is timed and intentionally brief. Even so, the worksheet will take you an hour or at most two to complete. Work quickly so that your instinctual thoughts come through. That will help you to avoid overthinking or censoring/revising answers based on what you think you should write. There are no right or wrong answers!
You can stop right here and dig in to the free download… or read on for more context and insight.
Incorporating Vision & Values Into Your Work
Backstory: I have done a lot of work recently researching the values of musicians and how the evolution of those values shape their careers over time. This work has revolved around such questions as: What are the values of students fresh out of conservatory or college, versus the values of a mid-career musician? How do values such as flexibility, financial stability, community, reputation, location, etc. factor into their expectations for the future, as well as satisfaction in their current career paths?
I’ve observed that many folks experience a drastic change in what they value in their work over time. And satisfaction in a career path can dramatically differ depending on what kind of expectations folks had when they started – whether concerning career possibilities or the inevitable transitions that come.
To be honest, a lot of the expectations I had for my own early career were projections of what I thought my teachers and mentors saw for me, or what they emphasized as an acceptable vocational direction. It has taken years of inner work to identify my own joys in a musical vocation, and to give myself permission to pursue them without fear of failing my mentors or myself.
How do you keep the joy in the work, as well as your own sense of purpose, first and foremost in the midst of the work?
Not everyone gets hit as hard as I did, but going through this work has led me to ask deeper questions such as:
Given the inevitable transitions that come in life and career, how can I keep the joy in the work, as well as my own sense of purpose, first and foremost – while building a business that is sustainable and successful?
How can I keep my priorities straight every day, so that I build something meaningful over time?
What can be my measuring stick against which to measure the shiny new ideas that pop into my head and threaten to distract from my ultimate goals?
And how can I help put the power of creativity and self-direction into the hands of other musicians who may be asking these same questions?
There are undoubtedly many ways to answer these queries, but if you’re asking similar questions, the worksheet I’ve provided here is a good starting point.
The heart of the worksheet
The thesis at the heart of the worksheet is this: by incorporating vision and values into your work, you’ll find it easier to identify opportunities that are meaningful, big-picture strategic, AND actionable for you.
At the end of the process,
You will have a working mission statement that reflects your values, what makes you YOU.
You will have a shortlist that represents your vision and aims you toward the impact you truly want to make.
And (a quirky favorite of mine) you will have essentially created your own personal advisory board – a voice of encouragement and accountability in an industry where we freelancers, sole proprietors, self-employed folks, etc. can sometimes feel alone.
I love this process because it makes room for the deep listening work we need as individuals and artists to ensure that our work stays connected to our human side. AND it puts those thoughts in a format that remains accessible to busy minds on a daily basis.
Dream, Listen, GO!
(then, rinse & repeat in 6 months/a year)
Ultimately, you’re in the driver’s seat. You can return to this process over and over, and I would recommend it. You’ll get better at the process (my brain hurt the first time, TBH), and the process will become more focused and rewarding with each repetition (kind of like scales).
Here's the worksheet, one final time.
P.S. I’d love to hear from you if you do the worksheet – let me know what new discoveries come up, or in what ways you personalized the process to make it fit your needs better.