Thanks Marg! It’s always nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way, although I’ll probably find some equally annoying things to clutter up my mind with ;)
Life does seem to have a way of taking us in unexpected directions. Sometimes when we look back we realize that it might have been for the best, and sometimes it just is what it is, but either way it’s still the path we’re on and it has shaped us into who we are today.
I wish you all the best on your journey and please keep in touch!
Another excellent post.
At 16, I emancipated from my parents and have been on my own ever since (I’m now 23). My father had always preached the significance and importance of goals, and the need to adhere to a strict regimen in order to accomplish them. Although this works well for him, this has never worked for me and over time I discovered why.
I’ve found that there are some things where goals are useful (graduating high school, getting into college, graduating from college, etc) but that the problem for me comes when I put a time-line on these goals. I find that if I set a deadline on a goal, then I am setting myself up for failure and it, somehow, personalizes that failure to an emotional level.
“Having no goal isn’t about waiting or wanting, it’s about being willing to work your ass off today for an unknown result tomorrow”
My business (jewelry design and selling online) is my first experiment with this goal-free process. I have to admit that it’s very freeing in some ways. I can’t say there’s less stress or less pressure so much as a sense of accomplishment that comes from each and every day rather than striving for an end goal and holding off on that sense of accomplishment until whatever that goal is has been reached.
Thanks for another thought provoking post.
First of all, thank you for your kind words about the post. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us here in the comment section.
I think you describe this paradox perfectly. There are some things where goals are useful. They give us a general direction to move towards (such as graduation or learning a new technical skill) and I completely agree that its important to sit down and reflect where we are and where we would like to go from here.
I think I have more of a problem when it comes to more specific goals such as I’m going to complete X amount of manuscripts this year, I’m going to get up at 5am and go to the gym every morning (hahahaha), or I’m going to earn X amount of dollars this year. I think this is the kind of thing that gets us in trouble because way too often it sets us up for failure. Why? Because hardly anybody creates modest goals for themselves. We’ve all been told to “dream big” and shoot for the stars. Well that’s all great, until December comes and I’m still struggling to finish up my March goals ;)
Thanks again for sharing your experiences with us and good luck with your “goal-free” jewelry design business. Please keep us updated and enjoy the journey!
Hey Drew, thanks for this great post!
I have been reading so many articles lately about goal making, setting intentions, resolutions, whatever you want to call them, and I have to admit I’ve fallen into the trap! Although, I don’t think it’s so much of a trap.
I found that your post had me thinking about my goals in a completely different light–thank you so much for that! I feel okay with having these goals I’ve set for myself, but I also feel okay without being too rigid about them. I understand they were more to inspire me, get me thinking, and moving me forward, and aren’t necessarily something that’s set in stone and can’t be tweaked. I guess what I am trying to say is that they are flexible, and I’m okay with that.
Thanks for getting me thinking! I’ll be seeing you around. :)
Thank you Alli for sharing your thoughts on this. I think, at least for me, it has always been that sense of flexibility that I’ve been missing. It seems that we’ve been trained to think that if something isn’t happening the solution is to double your efforts and to try harder. The idea of changing course always seemed like it was an admission of failure.
It’s like I was admitting that I chose my initial path poorly and then wasted all of this time following it like an idiot. Then because I had already sunk all of this time and energy into this particular path, I might as well keep going. Now of course, there’s something to be said for perseverance and not “giving up”, but it seems that it also has to be balanced somehow with staying flexible and having the willingness to explore other options. Now where exactly that line is, I don’t know, but I think once you accept the fact that it’s okay to change directions, life has a way of becoming far more interesting. . .
I totally understand what you mean about if you’re not following your “course” then you could potentially be failing. But really, what is failure? Maybe it’s a good thing sometimes. It helps us realize what wasn’t meant to be or isn’t working.
I think it’s okay to admit you didn’t know where you were headed and ended up in a place that made you feel uncomfortable or was possibly even a waste of time. Because really, I don’t think many things are a waste of time–they help us learn what we want to do and what we don’t want to do. Sometimes you have to try things you don’t like in order to get where you want to be.
I agree that there’s definitely something to be said about not “giving up,” but I do think it’s okay to realize that you’re headed in the wrong direction and try to figure out how you can keep yourself on course.
For me, as long as I am moving forward (or even just MOVING, really) I feel like I am headed in the right direction. If I am making progress, even if it’s not what I had mapped out in my goals, it’s still something worth noting. Progress is progress, whether you planned it or not. :)
I’m so happy I found your website!
This is a great post and very true, I think. It made me smile when I read it, because the post I had just finished writing on my own blog moments before started out headed in one direction but ended up somewhere else completely!
While it helps to have an idea of where we might be moving towards, it is not as important to ever actually reach that place as we may imagine when we first set out. I think the above poster Alli is right in her response when she says that the most important thing to do is to keep moving anyway.
Thanks for inspiring, helping us to keep on keeping on, as they say :-)
Thanks Jacqualine for your kind words :)
I think you and Alli are right about the importance of simply moving forward. This power of movement and momentum is vastly underrated I think. Even if you don’t know where you are going — putting that pen to paper or putting that brush to the canvas is always the first step. For whatever reason, our creative muse always leaves it up to us to make the first move. We have to first commit ourselves to the act of creation even if it sometimes feels like we are driving down a dark country road at night with our headlights turned off. We may not be able to see exactly where we are going, but we definitely know that something is going to happen if we just keep going…
Thanks for the insights, Drew. You bring up many valuable ideas here, and the following really resonates:
Having no goal isn’t about waiting or wanting, it’s about being willing to work your ass off today for an unknown result tomorrow
It takes far more courage to keep working not knowing where any of it will lead, than it does to set up endless yearly goals towards an imagined outcome. One offers comfort while the other offers only vague possibilities.
I find this relevant to being able to live one’s life in a positive, forward-moving way, while being able to feel comfortable with the fact that most things (almost everything but a sliver, really) will remain unknown and unknowable to us. It means being “willing to work your ass off” to be one’s best self, without the promises of heaven or everlasting life or other imagined, comforting outcomes.
It’s always great to see you here Sky :)
This is one of the biggest issues (and I have a lot of issues) I’ve had to deal with because I am a bit of a control freak by nature. I typically like to know that if I walk from point A to point B, that I’ll eventually arrive at point B. Now although that may work great in some aspects of life, such as finding my way to the grocery store, it unfortunately doesn’t work quite as well when it comes to something as intangible and slippery as creativity.
Lacking a true path, I often find myself trying to make it up in sheer quantity. It’s the whole throw-enough-stuff-at-a-wall-and-sooner-or later-something-will-stick philosophy. Sit down, do the work, and have faith that something good will come of it eventually. Sure 95% of what I write will still be crap (some would say that percentage is even higher), but every once in awhile there will also be that small “sliver”, as you said, that offers you hope and keeps you moving forward.
I’m also one of those type A people who likes to lay down steps and “plan.” You’d think by now I would have realized that you can’t really plan, because something WILL happen to change said plans. Nevertheless, I have been on that danged failure treadmill for a while. And it does make me feel like I am failing when I don’t accomplish those little tasks. Then I get mad and feel bad and wonder about giving up. It’s vicious and I don’t like it. I do like what you said about it being more courageous to work WITHOUT a timed goal than to set vague goals you may not reach. I think I need to take this to heart and bail that sinking goal ship. Not completely, or, like you said, the dog may starve. Thanks for more very timely reading.
Thanks Veronica for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us! I’m with you, for whatever reason, us Type A (aka control-freaks) personalities tend to make things worse because we think that we can control the chaos and are then constantly surprised when it doesn’t work out as we planned— so then we make a new plan in order to keep that “failure treadmill” running at top speed. On a side note, I find it interesting that my failure treadmill is running daily while my real treadmill sits unused in the corner of the room collecting dust ;)
I’ll admit that this plan (of no plan) is still more of an ideal for me than a reality, but I am slowly learning that things usually turn out better the more I stop listening to myself and start listening to what the universe is trying to tell me.
Oh, I definitely agree. Following the plan To Not Follow the Plan is harder to do than it sounds. I’m trying it out though, and have actually managed to still get some things done! I think it comes in cycles, of moving about freely and intensly following lists and deadlines.
I am a photographer and have been making images for years. However I cant over emphasise how difficult I find it to share my work. I was speaking about this with a friend recently who has recently become the proud father of a baby boy. As I say he is rightly proud very protective of his child so the best way I could articulate my problem was to compare the situation whereby he would put his son out there for critique.
Please can I ask anyone out there how they might have overcome this problem
You’re right Ricky, it is difficult sometimes to put our work out there and open it up to potential criticism. No likes to be told that their work is somehow not good enough. At the same time, you are not your work. This is a big issue with a lot of creative artists. We connect so deeply with our work during our time together that it is often hard to let it go. So we delay, and we tweak, and we edit to avoid having to put it out there as a “finished” piece. We talked a lot about this in a recent article here on the site called “Creating the Artist, not the Art” where we talk about the dangers of identifying yourself to closely with your work, and how doing this can actually slow down you progress of developing as an artist. I hope that it may help you out!
My only other advice to you might be to start slowly and just start sharing your work online (Flickr, Facebook, etc…) It’s often hardest to share with our friends, family, and those who we are closest with because of our emotional connection. For this reason, it’s usually a lot easier to start sharing with complete strangers. Don’t necessarily start with your favorite images either so you can avoid as much emotional involvement as possible. Just start sharing something and I think once you start getting some positive feedback things will get easier. After all, most of us online in the creative community are pretty nice people :)
Good luck Ricky and please keep us posted!
Yes! No more cluttering up my mind with annoying things I SHOULD be doing waiting for that thing that will never happen as planned… Life can change in a heartbeat, I know this. Utter devastation or complete joy can be just a breath away. I have plans for some things – like paying the bills and doing the dishes and that holiday I so want to go on (when things are RIGHT for me to go I will…), but recent events reinforced yet again the lesson that failure is an opportunity to learn…
I needed to read this today!