Long Term Goal Setting For Creatives

Exactly how do you define your long-term goals? Experts say the best way is to form a vivid picture in your mind (a moving picture, lots of action) of where you want to be in ten years. Then five years. Then one year. The five-year and one year pictures must include milestones that will help you get to the ten-year picture (or goal). But what if you have no freaking idea where you want to be in ten years? Worse, what if the very idea of picking something makes you feel like you’ve just cut off all other options that might pop up? What if the whole idea of picking a long-term goal means the only picture you can frame in your mind is a cage… with very tiny air holes?

At this point I want to take a photo break with a lovely photo of something totally unrelated to today’s post. Just because its my Blog and I can. 😉

"Shruti" by Sara Sally LaGrand
Shruti” by Sara Sally LaGrand, awesome glass and peacock feather pin

DH won this delightful glass and peacock feather pin by Sara Sally LaGrand at the silent auction held during our recent weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the Glass Act Winter Retreat. Thank you Sweetie – it’s lovely!

Back to goals. Start with a snapshot of your life now. What would you like to change, or wish was different? *Soapbox Alert* I’ve long been a believer that our lives are what we have made them. If there is something I don’t like about my life I can’t blame someone or something else – it all boils down to the decisions and actions I have made, or not made. I am responsible even if I had serious obstacles that were not my doing (dread decease, two heads, alien possession), how I handle them is totally up to me. This has a good side and bad side. On the bad side, I am responsible for my life and how it’s going. I cannot play the victim card and lay blame elsewhere. The good side is this realization/mindset gives me power, the power to change my life for the better. Power a victim thinker doesn’t have. That said, even if someone has the right attitude it won’t make their life a breeze overnight. Making the right decisions and always being responsible is work. They also have to figure out the how’s or we would all be Warren Buffet (sigh). *Jumping off soapbox.* So, start with the things in your current picture you’d like to change, we’ll stick with art career things for this post. Do you want to improve our art so you can sell more? Do you want a polished website? Do you want a large and naturally lit studio? Do you want your art hanging in Galleries or Museums? To you want to make enough money to take an awesome trip once a year? Do you want something as simple as more time to make art? See how one thing leads to another? Make a list of between 30 and 50 things you want to change or achieve. Yes, that’s a lot but it will grease the wheels and things will start popping into your head. Sort your list into six categories; Easy & Fast, Easy & Slow, Hard & Fast, Hard & Slow, Not Bloody Likely, and No Way In Hell. Things like “becoming invisible at will” would fall into the No Way In Hell category. Winning the Lottery would fall in the Not Bloody Likely category. Being represented by six Galleries nation-wide would fall in the Hard & Slow category, it’s hard work and it will take some time.

Next, take all the items you have listed and break them down into steps. The Hard & Slow goals may take hundreds of steps where the Easy & Fast goals may only take one or two. Organize the steps in the order they need to be executed to move forward. Don’t forget about the Not Bloody Likely category. If you want to win the lottery, your steps would be to pick numbers and buy tickets – it could happen! It’s probably safe to say you can dump the No Way In Hell category.

Say you want to organize your disaster of a studio. First, decide on the reason and your own fortitude for this project. If you decide it’s because you should and you can only tackle this for ½ hour a week over the next two years it goes in the Easy & Slow category. Easy because you don’t have to get a degree or build a new studio first, just clean up a mess that’s already there. Let’s face it, we all know how to clean up a mess, it’s the motivation and the ability to part with things that’s hard – and ½ hour a week is pretty easy. If it’s because you can’t work in there with all the mess and you have a deadline coming up you may decide the four day marathon is a better approach. Now it goes in the Hard & Fast category. Hard, because you have to clear the calendar and force your self to put on blinders and focus only on this one task for the next four days and, hardest of all, finish it!

Get the idea? A picture should be emerging, the majority of the Hard and Slow items will be your long term goals, the ten year picture. the Easy & Slow and some of the Hard & Fast items will naturally fall in the five-year goal plan. BTW, these timelines are flexible, you can make this a one-year/six-months/one-month plan if you prefer.

But what about that cage with the tiny air holes? What about the missed opportunities that a locked-in goal is going to cause? Instead of pulling on your hair and wailing “I’m a creative, I can’t cope with a long term goal commitment or a rigid plan”! Chill, baby – here’s the secret. “Things change, always do” (that’s a quote from The Last Star Fighter, btw). Make the farthest out goal(s) deliberately lacking in minutia. Maybe even a little vague. Make it a general target. The key to a creative’s long term planning is Reviews. Review your goals and game plan at least every year or even every six months. If you are really panicky you can review every month or even every day – but I don’t recommend too often or you will spend all your time planning and none doing. During your review, be willing to let the path wander if an opportunity has come up that you think is worth chasing. If you find your wants or needs zinging off in another direction, be willing to let the plan bend or change. Abandon a smaller goal if it no longer suits the revised long term goal. Be Flexible. Nothing is carved in stone, no one will hunt you down if you deviate. The important part here is that you make progress to somewhere. You can’t move forward without a target. The target can change, as long as you are moving towards something you are on track.

What goal setting/long term planning strategies work well for you? I’m always eager to learn more ways to accomplish… everything!

Deb H

Long Term Goal Setting For Creatives

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