I’m reflecting again on goals. The idea of setting goals is one we hear often in a variety of contexts. We hear, too, a lot goal-setting strategies, reasons why we should set goals, and reasons why maybe we shouldn’t. We hear about ways to measure our progress, and about the importance of setting appropriate goals. We even hear cute little acronyms like SMART — which, if memory serves, stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Good goal-setting begins — according to this SMART theory — with choosing a specific goal. So, count me out right there when it comes to art. If I have any goal at all — which is somewhat questionable — it’s very vague and general. Even if I try to be a bit more specific, I’ll be out all over again with the second step. But, stay with me here on specifics for a moment longer. A good, specific goal — according to the goal-setting experts whose advice I’ve been reading — should state clearly not only what the end result should be, but precisely who will be responsible for achieving that result, and when it will be realized.
Other words that might be used here include: sensible, simple, and significant, but don’t get me started on all of these words and what they actually mean when it comes to goal-setting. Let’s just move on, shall we?
A good goal is measurable. We need ways to accurately assess our progress, to see not only that we’re moving closer to a goal, but also how much more work remains. Another word that can be used here is milestone. A milestone is a form of marker, a somewhat tangible illustration of where we are at any given time.
A quick online search will provide many charts, diagrams, and drawings we can use to represent the idea of our goals as the destination of a journey — much as I refer to my own experience as a journey through the world of art.
Helpful? Maybe. Maybe not. I suppose that depends on precisely how measurable our goals really are.
Oh, want a few more words to confuse things? Try meaningful and motivating.
Next we come to the importance of setting goals that are attainable or achievable. You’ll have to count me out on this stage of the process, too, I’m afraid. I don’t really know what I’m capable of achieving in art.
My study of this whole goal-setting process has suggested a few other words that are important here: attitude, for one, and accomplishment for another. I know my attitude toward my art isn’t always the best, and if I ever do attempt — yet another A word — to set a goal, I’m never sure how to accomplish it.
Good goals should also be realistic or relevant. Personally I feel like we’re quibbling a bit here, venturing off into semantics perhaps. Is there a difference between an attainable goal and a realistic one? I’m not so sure about that. I do like the idea of relevancy, though. If I were to set a goal, I would want it to be relevant to who I am and what I want in my life. I would want a goal that mattered in some way, something that would help me define and represent who I am.
And then there’s the idea of goals that are timely, or as one website puts it, time-bound. So, let me back up a bit. Isn’t relevancy related to timeliness? Again, are we quibbling over semantics here? Maybe it’s best to just move on to the concept of a goal being bound to time. Aargh! I don’t even like that thought. The idea, according to those goal-setting experts who know far more than the rest of us, is that you must have a deadline for a goal. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! No, thank you. No. Just no.
Frankly, the last thing I want to do when it comes to art is to put any pressure upon myself either in regards to performance, production, or possibilities. While I do think it’s helpful to occasionally push myself forward a bit — maybe nudge would be a better word — the thought of having some self-imposed deadline looming over my head like a dark cloud would be a sure way of making me run from the easel to hide under my bedcovers. A deadline would leave me depressed, discouraged, and despondent.
Obviously I’m not a huge fan of goal-setting, at least not as it’s touted by all those motivational experts who seek to marry efficiency to ambition, to add effectiveness to the process of improvement, and to otherwise blaze psychological trails for us to follow toward success.
If you like that sort of thing, go for it. Choose your goals. Create a rigorous schedule for achievement and adhere to it. Become a well-oiled machine, putting in your time, churning out accomplishments day after day, and always considering the importance of both the process and the results. You may get far in life. If you apply these principles to art, you may become quite accomplished. Good for you.
For me, though, as far as art is concerned, goal-setting can easily become an exercise that’s fraught with peril. I don’t want to put pressure on myself. I don’t want to worry myself about specific objectives. I don’t want to live with more deadlines than I already have. So while I may have a few goals, they’re far from SMART ones.
My goals are vague, impossible to define, wholly subjective, and bound to no time-constraints whatsoever. For me, you see, art isn’t based on some driving ambition, some desire to be the best and to make a name for myself as an artist.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have so far exceeded any expectations I had when I uttered those words — “I guess I need to learn how to draw” — that there are no further goals to which I need aspire. I’m far better than I ever thought I could be, so what more could I want to achieve?
My objectives — I don’t refer to them as goals — are quite simple.
- I want to improve my drawing and painting skills.
- I want to be recognized by the art community as an artist of merit
- I want to continue participating in art shows
- I want to learn other painting genres — portraiture and still life.
- I want to enjoy art, to have fun with the creative process, and to use it as a form of personal expression.
No, these aren’t SMART goals. They can’t be measured. There are no deadlines. Maybe they’re not really even all that attainable. But I think they are, at least, relevant. They do represent who I am and what reward I hope to find from this art journey.
Actually, I think the journey is reward within itself, don’t you? Art is a marvelous creative process, and I’m not sure creativity is compatible with strict, time-bound goal-setting.
What do you think? When it comes to your art, do you set specific goals? Do you think it’s important to have deadlines? I’d love to hear your opinions!