I can’t tell you how many people, artists and non-artists alike, cringe at the word goal. For many, the word goal reminds you of the goals you set and don’t reach. Others question the idea of New Year’s Resolutions because the date is an arbitrary one, anyway!
Hi my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you build your skill and find your unique artist voice. Both of these services are goal-based activities. And I know there is interest in the topic because many, many people show up here on the Artist Strong website every day. So why is this word goal so ugly?
I want to first start off by saying I hope acknowledging this icky feeling we can have about goals helps you realize you are not alone. Most people I know feel about goals as I’ve described earlier. It’s something I never achieve or they feel arbitrary and useless. Why set a goal in the first place?
A culture of goal-setting
I want to answer that question for you. In some ways, our entire lives are based on goals. As babies we learn how to walk and talk. As children we learn how to read and write. It starts early in life, this idea of achieving. While we might not overtly describe these activities as goals, we certainly treat them like goals. What do schools and parents do if their children aren’t meeting these goals by a certain age?
School is about earning good marks and getting into a good college or job. (Goals). Participating in sports? Well most sports actively use the word goal in the activity! Hockey? Goal! Football? Goal!
Western culture is especially about meeting benchmarks (or goals) and always striving for more. And if I’m honest, talking about them this way makes ME tired, and I love goals!
When we feel we are constantly being measured or assessed, it can be off putting. Some people I know would rather fail then deal with constant expectation! And that word, expectation, is a key part of this puzzle. Many people resist goals and the word goal can feel so ugly because it’s not clear where the expectation for this goal comes from.
I’ve been reading multiple books by the author Gretchen Rubin and in her research she discusses how we set goals and tell people to meet goals all in the same way, but there are many kinds of people who need different strategies to succeed. Goals are not the problem. A one-size-fits-all goal is the problem.
I’ll share links to my articles about her research in the comments below so you can learn a bit more about her work.
These expectations we can have around goals, or the expectations we feel placed on goals by others, is what can make goal-setting feel restrictive or ugly. So let’s talk about how to make goals work for you, on your own terms.
How to make goals work for you
The first step is to honestly ask yourself: what do you want for your art? Knowing and admitting to your goal is half of the battle. You must acknowledge what you really want for yourself. If it’s important to you, it matters.
You might be too scared or too uncomfortable to share your goal. Then keep it secret, for now. It’s important to treat your goal as something sacred and valuable. Don’t let naysayers pick it apart or place their expectations on your goal. Your art goal is for no one but you.
For some, sharing your goal will help you achieve it. Find a support network of people (digitally, face-to-face, whatever works for you) that share similar interests or goals. It will encourage your confidence and give you better means to achieve this secret something that is so special to you. It will also help you build trust with people who will honor and respect your goal.
To be quite honest, when I started Artist Strong I did not share it with my family. As supportive as they mean to be, often their support centers around potential dangers or weaknesses in a plan. I wasn’t ready to hear that kind of criticism.
At some point, I realized that feedback will be important to listen to and consider if I truly wish to build my business and grow as an artist. But I also realized something else: family may not be the best source of feedback about my goals for this community because they are not part of this space. YOU are!
So, how do you find a support network to help you through your goal setting?
- Look through Facebook groups online to see if one feels right to you
- Find a hashtag used on Instagram that encompasses the kind of art you create (or hope to create)
- Look for a local art organizations or community spaces
- Join a meetup for artists locally
- Take an art class online or locally and connect with other students
- Ask a group of artist friends to be your mastermind and meet regularly to chat about your art
There are MANY strategies you can use, but remember this: if you want a support network it means you need to show up and support others as well. Meaningful connections and support require give and take.
Lastly, I like to encourage you to treat blogs and podcasts of people you admire as mentors. Even if you don’t speak with them directly, make use of all the free resources they offer and keep their work top of mind. IF you feel surrounded by people you admire who are achieving, this can help set a tone for your art life as well.
Do you still feel like goal is an ugly word? Tell me about your objections or concerns around goal setting in the comments below and let’s transform goals into something that makes you feel empowered and ready to take on your art hopes and dreams!
Move outside of that comfort zone, I know it can be hard. But remember that being uncomfortable is a key ingredient to improving and building your skill. We have research that proves it. Take a deep breath and make the leap! I’m here, cheering you on.