How To Set Goals And Achieve Them – Guide for Artists
Most of us have at some point set out with noble intentions to achieve big things and set goals. We make a long list of artistic goals or goals that will bring our dreams closer to being a better artist. In this post, we explore how to set goals and review them so that we progress with our art.
The question then is how do we achieve what we have set out to do? What can we learn from the things that have gone well? How do we let go of things that could use improvement?
Download and print this goal setting exercise.
Setting goals does not complete the process. We need to learn how to course-correct along the way to ensure their success. We need to pause and review our goals, for a higher chance of achieving them.
Design a plan to achieve your goals
Make a list of tasks that get the job done. Break it down into the smallest bits so that it feels like you can accomplish it. There is nothing more daunting than a large task that seems too big to handle.
Give yourself the time to achieve it. Big goals can take 6-12 months. Remember that we overestimate how much we can get done in a day and underestimate how much we can get done in a year.
If you want to learn a new medium, have a clear picture of the specific one you are going to focus on. Do you need to purchase new materials for it? Will you need lessons to start? Will you take these lessons online or find a local artist to learn from? What deadlines will you set to learn the skills for the new media? Make it as specific as possible. If you need help breaking it down, try out my goal setting worksheets as seen in the image above.
If you don’t have a deadline, it will probably not get done, ever. Setting a time within which to accomplish a goal helps you stay focused. Announce your deadline to others so that they will hold you accountable. Your family and friends will also become your cheerleaders to help you commit to and complete your tasks.
Habits and routines to achieve goals
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to decide every moment of every day what you are going to be doing next? Most of us get by on habits. We wake up, head for the bathroom, relieve ourselves, brush our teeth. It’s automatic and you don’t have to think about it. It would be exhausting to have to plan every move every minute. Trying to make up my mind about what I am going to eat for breakfast sometimes drives me crazy!
Habits and routines take the struggle out of these decisions. Deciding when and where you are going to be spending your artistic time will help you achieve your goals by taking the procrastination out of sitting down. Carve out an hour or two especially to create.
What works for your schedule? An hour before you go to class or maybe an hour after dinner when everyone is quiet and asleep. Protect this time. Protect the ritual of getting your things together and getting started. This is your time. Do not let anything else come in the way.
Personalize your productivity
Customise how you plan to approach a goal according to your personality type. Tune into your strengths because there are so many ways to accomplish a goal. According to Carson Tate, a productivity expert, people fall into four categories.
Are you a planner, prioritiser, arranger or visualiser? Take the test here.
Planners and prioritisers enjoy the logical, analytical, critical approach to a task.
Visualisers are holistic and integrative thinkers who are excited by the variety and flexibility of a task.
Arrangers, who are expressive and emotional, benefit and thrive on a looser time management plan which allows them to work around their attention and energy levels, thus helping be more productive in real time.
One of the basic problems with achieving our dreams is not that we don’t set goals. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is knowing when those goals aren’t working. Perhaps some goals are vague, impossible to reach or too long-term. Because we cannot see the end or completion, even though we are determined to get it done, it’s easy to get frustrated.
Keep an open mind and be flexible. You do not need a new year to reset your goals! Every day is a new day. You can decide to change how you accomplish any of your goals at any time!
Remember the point of this is self-reflection. Do not use it as a tool to punish yourself or feel guilty.
What worked and what did not
While we review our artistic goals for this year we might choose to see it as ‘fail’ or ‘pass’. This system might have motivated us to get out of high school but it lingers with us long into our adult years as well.
Personally, I use my resolutions review as a way to understand myself better. There may be external reasons why you do not achieve your goals. For the goals that you did achieve, what was different about them? You might start to see a trend in what worked and what did not. Reviewing your goals mid-year can shed some light on your own habits and external environment. Choose to learn from them rather than use them as a self-punishment tool.
Drop unnecessary goals
I am sure this has happened to you. You watch a video of an artist doing something that is beautiful and you decide to pick up a new art medium. The goal of learning how to paint with oils has been on your list for two years now, but you are not any closer to picking up a canvas and starting to create. Is it on your list because you really want to paint in oils or is it because you think it is what ‘real’ artists paint with?
There is nothing wrong with dropping goals that do not serve you. Perhaps it’s not meant to happen at this time; maybe you will finally get to it in a few years. And that’s okay!
Stop beating yourself up
We live in a world where self-compassion is seen as weak and lazy. If you are like me you probably have a long list of things you would like to achieve. You hit most of your goals, but for the few that you missed you beat yourself up for it.
Most people have to hit every single one of their goals to think they are successful. The harsh reality of being rigid is that we are bound to set ourselves up for feelings of guilt, disappointment and a sense of failure. So instead of picking up from where we left off, we probably end up sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix, trying to block out the overwhelm of negative emotions.
Research shows that treating yourself with self-compassion is the key to increasing motivation and improving performance long term. So when you mess up, which we all do sometimes, try to be kinder to yourself.
Share your goals to achieve them
Most of us are too afraid to share our goals: what if we fail? But that is precisely why we should share them. Maybe it is just this fire behind us that is necessary to get us going. We can share what we have achieved so far with friends and family or even our followers. Let them know what we plan to achieve in the future as well. This might be too intimidating for those who are worried about failure and lead to procrastination or fear for some. But if you think this is what you need, give it a go!
Is your environment helpful?
Perhaps you have been super focused and yet you do not see much improvement in your artwork. Could there be an external circumstance that is holding you back? The environment in which you operate has a huge factor in the success of your dreams.
Perhaps you do not have the necessary moral support. Perhaps you do not have access to the relevant knowledge or skills at the moment or the funds are low and you need to spend more time making money. Are your family and friends supportive of your dreams? If you find yourself in one of these situations it’s okay to take longer with your artistic dreams.
Download my goal setting guide
You can print these setting goals worksheet PDF and journal about how you are going to plan, assess and tweak your goals. Try this setting goals exercise. Remember it is never too late to hit the reset button.
How will you carve out the time and space in your life to achieve your creative goals? What will you create today? While success as an artist is elusive it is important to enjoy the journey and have fun with it.
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