Set it, don’t get attached to it. Before you yell at the screen telling me I’m crazy give me a moment and I’ll get into explaining why this is important.
Title screen over me talking and smaller.
Goal = Instant Unhappiness
Setting art goals can be a very positive and powerful thing to do.
Art goals help us get somewhere, they help us get what we desire, they align us to a direction like a compass.
Unfortunately setting them also makes you instantly unhappy.
For example when you set an art goal to draw as great as, insert awesome artist name here, you’re immediately creating a sense of dissatisfaction with your current skill level.
You’ve defined what you haven’t achieved yet. How far you still have to go. It’s a gap between the person you are and the person you want to be. And depending on how big the art goal is, that gap could seem insurmountable.
This can lead to procrastination and a feeling of being stuck.
What is worse, when we complete a goal the payoff can be depressing. I’ve worked on paintings for months with an idea of what it’s going to be, then when I finally slog through and finish it I’m disappointed because not only is the completion celebration short but the outcome wasn’t what I wanted.
Attachment is the problem not the goal
The art goal isn’t the problem though. It’s the attachment to the outcome that is the problem.
When you attach yourself to specific results that creates disappointment and frustration. The root of your unhappiness is wanting to be some way other than the way you are now.
You’ve attached all your happiness to achieving that art goal.
“I’ll be happy when I can paint like this amazing artist.”
“I’ll be happy when I make this amount of money.”
“I’ll be happy when I lose this much weight.”
You won’t be happy until you’ve reached the goal and that could take years!
The next question is. “How do I focus on achieving but not focus on a specific outcome?”
How do you hit goals and not be attached?
Focus on these 4 things instead.
1 Know your purpose
I have a long video on how to discover your purpose in life, I call it your big why. Check that out for more.
Once you know your purpose and your values you can get inline with them and generate happiness by simply being in alignment with who you truly are at your core. Who you truly want to be.
You’re aligned internally and emotionally rather than on external reward.
2 Focus on progress
Focus on making progress towards your goal. Rather than thinking “I want to paint a masterpiece,” think “This week, I want to spend more time painting than I did last week.”
Or instead of thinking “I want to paint like John Singer Sargent.” go with “I want to get three brushstrokes in this painting that looks as great as his.”
You can still have those bigger art goals. But instead of the insurmountable gap, you’ve created a bridge of smaller steps to hit on the way. By completing these smaller steps you can find satisfaction more frequently, even daily!
Because as human beings we can only go so long without feeling achievement. When you aim to make consistent progress you’re allowing yourself to feel more achievement along the way, which translates into more motivation to keep going.
For me I have an art goal to do art every single day for the rest of my life, but I don’t focus on that. It’s crazy huge. I focus on what I can accomplish today. I know I can do my minimum of 30 minutes and on many days I do a lot more.
3 Focus on the process
Wait, isn’t that the same as progress?
Not really. To make progress you do x.
It’s the “do” part that is the process. When you focus on your love for the craft. The love of the feel of the paint on canvas. Or how a charcoal pencil slides across newsprint paper. Or the excitement you feel when you’re observing a shadow pattern on the model and can’t wait to draw it.
Find your love for the doing. And if you don’t love the medium you’re working with, see if you can change in some way. How can you make it new and interesting again?
4 Focus on growth
Yes, this one is very similar to focusing on progress. But I wanted to add it in because too often we see the progress in what we produce. This many paintings a month or year. But we forget to look inside and see how we’ve grown as an artist psychologically.
How many of us have heard stories of a wealthy person that has achieved so much and made a ton of progress yet they are unhappy. All too often.
We need to pair our external progress with our internal progress. Yes my pile of work is growing but how have I grown as an artist? What do I think I know that I didn’t before? What do I understand now that I didn’t before?
One of my biggest psychological growth spurts was when I realized that I could expand the meaning of my drawings beyond just charcoal on a page. I was doing this drawing of Spock from Star Trek when I asked myself, “what type of line describes Spock best?”
Well, Spock is a very logical and scientific person. I bet very straight and accurate lines would describe him best. So I did the whole drawing with very straight hard edge lines.
It was a revelation to me!
I had just found another level of communication within my art. My skill didn’t change, I only completed one more drawing but after it my complete outlook on art changes.
This is what I’m talking about when I say focus on growth. Look at where you are now psychological versus where you were years ago.
There you go, with those 4 tips you can have goals, stay unattached, keep motivated, keep progressing and growing without all the unhappiness.
You can still set smart goals.
Specific, measured, achievable, relevant and time sensitive. They will help you orient your trajectory. Then let go and focus all the energy on the journey
As they say it’s all about the journey not the destination.
Because “I can go one more mile!” is much more encouraging than “I still have 200 miles left to go!”
Give yourself entirely to the journey of your art career and let go of specific results.
My videos on igniting your creative motivation will be super helpful in setting your goals and achieving them as well. Check them out here.
Thank you for watching/reading. My purpose here is to help you become a better version of yourself. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to send me a message I reply personally to everyone.
Have a wonderful Week!