I’d been talking to a novelist and asked her what she was up to. She said, “In the next three years I want to accomplish five things. First I will …Then … And also …” Was I impressed. She was clear and confident about her goals and I was shocked because many writers, like many artists, dancers, actors, composers, and other creative people don’t give their goals enough thought. So much so that I can just hear them thinking right now, “Oh, this post is going to be about goals—that kind of stuff. So I’ll read something else.” Big mistake.
In the business world goals are talked about all the time. Everyone who works in an organization has goals. But many creators have an aversion to goals that mystifies me. And they invent phony-baloney excuses for not pursuing them such as: “Creative people don’t need goals; they’re too spontaneous,” “I don’t see the value,” “I’ve never been able to stick to goals,” “I don’t have time for that,” and so on.
But the creator’s ever-active, never-resting mind—your mind, my mind–is confused when it doesn’t know what to do—when it doesn’t have clear, specific, empowering goals. (Be sure the goals are specific; general goals are meaningless.) The last thing a creative person needs is a muddled brain. So the mind’s greatest burden is to decide very clearly what must be done. When you discover what you must accomplish—today, in a year, in five–uncertainties disappear and you become productive. And productivity—the production of fine works one after another for the whole length of a successful career—is the main goal of creative people. Productivity is what all their routines and rituals are aimed at.
Many creative people don’t realize that usually the best in a field is also the most prolific. Except those who produce very little, but everything they do produce is perfect and hasn’t a single flaw.
Think hard about your creative goals because the more thought and the more intense the thought you give to shaping, reshaping, and fleshing them out, the clearer and more specific they’ll become and the more strongly you’ll be committed to achieving them. That’s not just my opinion. It’s an indisputable fact.
The more intense you are about reaching your goals, and the more you talk about them with family, friends, and other creators and teachers and mentors the more likely you are to overcome obstacles and persevere and reach them. Simply stating a goal to another person–saying as that novelist said to me, “Here is what I’m going to accomplish”–increases the likelihood that you’ll accomplish it.
Then you feel a sudden zest, a tingle. Your imagination catches fire. You’re filled with optimism. Then you’re confident, and bear in mind that in every field on earth without exception–especially in the arts–more people fail because they lack confidence than fail because they lack talent.
It is confidence and not talent that’s the secret of most successful people’s success. Confident creators are rarer than talented creators. I take for granted that you’re talented. You wouldn’t have gone into acting, writing, painting, etc. in the first place if you weren’t talented. But if you have faith in yourself you’ll reach higher levels of success than other creators of equal talent who lack that faith in themselves. Think about that. Read that sentence again. You must never for more than five minutes lose confidence. Whenever you feel your confidence seeping away say, “Hey, enough of that.”
When your goals are highly charged and you’re committed to them heart and soul, there’s hardly an obstacle that you can’t overcome—big obstacles, small obstacles, old obstacles, and new obstacles—no obstacle out in the world, and no obstacle in you. Then you have both tremendous power and clear direction.
Run Through the Tape
The majority of artists and writers, like the majority of all other people, relax when the completion of a task or the achievement of a goal—even the goal of happiness–is within reach. Is it laziness or weariness or over-confidence or burnout or because the pressure is off? There are theories, but no one has been able to adequately explain why. Many athletes relax in the vicinity of victory, and entire armies do too. And many individuals, athletes, armies, writers and other artists just plain give up and quit.
Particularly when a long time is necessary to achieve a goal, you may become exhausted and disheartened. It’s only then, when you feel you’ve given everything that should reasonably be asked of a person and can’t go any further, yet continue bravely on nevertheless, that you show your true worth.
The best-trained track men and women don’t run to the tape, they run through it. They race to an imaginary finish line a few feet farther than the actual one. It’s that imaginary line they are racing to reach. There’s a tendency in many people not only to relax when they’re approaching their goals, but also when they’ve reached them. I know a man who had been trying to get a book published for years without success, but lost all ambition once he was told it was to be published.
We have to learn to pour it on and run through the tape and pursue our goals with unwavering, powerful commitment, striving much harder, not less hard, the closer we get to reaching them. Tell yourself, “Run through the tape. Run through the tape.” When your friend Kate or Jack or Milly or Bill is easing up tell them, “Run through the tape. That’s the only way you’ll succeed.”
Stick like Glue
Stick to your creator’s goals like glue. Never let a gap open between you and them. Many people fail to reach their potential because they let too much distance open up. Or they let too much time elapse and lose momentum. Or they lose focus, frittering their days and years away as if they have an unlimited supply of them.
Whatever creative success is for you, attach yourself to it. Where it goes, you go. Always be gaining ground on your goals, your dreams. Never fall back. Never get so caught up in the B.S. of daily life that you forget all that your craft means to you. The creator’s life is the best life—you know that. If you’ve gotten sidetracked, straighten up and set out again with determination and courage. Fear nothing. If you need to make changes, make them, sacrificing this, sacrificing that—they were mere impediments. Constantly remind yourself of your goals. Then stick to them like superglue.
© 2016 David J. Rogers
Parts of this post are based on material from my book Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life.
For my interview from the international teleconference with Ben Dean about Fighting to Win, click on the following link:
Order Fighting to Win: Samurai Techniques for Your Work and Life eBook by David J. Rogers
Order Waging Business Warfare: Lessons From the Military Masters in Achieving Competitive Superiority
8 responses to “Creative People’s Goals”
David, if this post was a painting it would consist of bold brush strokes in thick oil paint, maybe even created with a palette knife for quick, decisive marks. It certainly leaves an impression and I will be referring back to it!
Michelle, what a compliment you sent me—thank you. You make me think of van Gogh slapping paint on the canvas in a frenzy, his fingers covered with bright color—an image that so pleases me. You made me go back to the post and look for what you saw in it and described so well—I think you have something. And what a pleasure it is to be praised by someone as creative as you with your lovely roses I see every day on your calendar. And to see my craft compared with a different craft. Very cool. I have to think that you were somewhere in my thoughts as I wrote that post. You certainly are a goal-setter, a serious artist—what I call a “Real Artist,” my highest compliment–traveling far and constantly for inspiration. You have always impressed me for that.
I visited gardens on Long Island, New York on a vacation recently, and thought of you. I’ll be sending photos to you.
Business and creativity “goals”, interesting post David.
Every post you share with us I read it more than
one time, and every time I found something new,
Something powerful that tells us:”You can do it. Do it”.
Thanks for that David.
Marilucas, thank you for your comment. Sorry I was not able to get back to your recent email, but I like what you said then, and I like what you say here. It makes me feel I’m motivating people, and that is an important goal of mine.
Good afternoon from London, David. I have been away for a while – re-assessing my goals and at the same time enjoying some superb painting opportunities, and of course enjoying the company of wonderful people, and at the same time painting their portraits.
Routines and rituals are vital in my life…I can’t function without them. As I have mentioned here before, it is self discipline, or these routines and rituals that actually give me the freedom to create.
During the next week or so, I will be catching up with more blogs and hopefully writing one myself.
Lovely to read your words as ever….by the way I am reading a brilliant book all about Chicago, recommended by my daughter. The Devil in the White City – by Erik Larson.
Best wishes Janet:)
Janet, it’s always my pleasure to hear about your exciting and creative life.I think you are far more sociable than many artists and writers I know. I have that book by Erik Larson on my bookcase, and I’ve looked at it a hundred times, but haven’t read it, though I don’t know why since everyone says such wonderful things about it. So I think I’ll read it now. I hope you do write a blog soon. Yours are always so meaningful. The weather is changing very subtly here. The hot days of summer seem to be gone and the first hints of autumn I think are in the air.That’s OK because autumn is such a beautiful season here.
Good morning, David and thank you so much for your very kind words….and yes I am thinking about a new blog. The book is a good read and takes us to a time of a huge change and turmoil in Chicago and indeed the world. I am enjoying. I love autumn, and although we have had a mini heatwave (for us that is) I am now ready for cooler days and warmer clothes….that’s the joy of seasonal changes. Glad to hear that things are cooling a little in Chicago. My daughter, Christie, has been travelling there a great deal this year with her work and has thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the city. Enjoy a creative day Janet:)
Janet–Well, true to my word, I’ve started “White City.” I think it’s quite neat that your daughter Christie is visiting the city. I’ve run into so many people over the years who’ve told me, “If I didn’t live in (where they live), I’d like to live in Chicago.
I did have a creative day. Thanks for the good wish.
LikeLiked by 1 person