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Goal setting for Artists

"The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" -Lao Tzu.

If you're reading this, congratulations on surviving long enough to see 2021! Last year was one of the most tumultous years of our lifetimes, between the global pandemic, politics, and the fight for racial equality to name a few. Our daily lives were upended. Businesses were forced to close and a lot of people died. And we're not out of the woods yet. But you can't make diamonds without extreme pressure and heat.

With a new year comes new hope. We plan ways to make this new year better than the last. A phenomenom called New Year's Resolutions of which we're all familiar. Often posted as a facebook status or brought up in conversations without really giving much thought on how to execute or "resolve" the goal it is you set out for yourself.

Artists can be especially notorious for this type of behavior. It's actually how Mothership Alumni came up with the name for our first show in January 2016, the Low Resolutions Art Exhibit. For that show, the goal was to come together for one night and showcase our art and music. Without overthinking it. Not just talking about doing a grand extravagant event and getting caught up in the details and never getting off the ground. We kept it raw, and it turned out better than we could've imagined.

Since then goal setting has become one of our biggest tools. Nothing we've accomplished since that first show ever happened without being written down first. Get notebook or better yet a yearly planner. Or both! I use a composition notebook for brainstorming and dumping out random thoughts and a planner to organize the more concrete goals with deadlines.

"Writing is being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and then to store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page." - Mary Gaitskill

With clear objectives and the right amount of effort spread out over enough time, you can achieve almost anything. It's perfectly fine to be a weekend warrior artist and just make art because you love to make art, but if you're reading this then you want to take your art game to the next level. I wholeheartedly believe people can sustain themselves through their art. Our society often time discourages people to start their own business, to be their own boss, to do what they want to do. If you don't decide your own dream, you'll be doomed to working toward someone else's. So here's 5 tips to get you started sketching that dream.

1. Know Thy Self

"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

With all the lockdown restrictions, there's a good chance you've spent a more than usual amount of time by yourself and at home lately. During this time you might've turned inward and done some self reflection. Take a step back and really evaluate yourself and your values. It all begins with a question.

2. Ask Questions

Before you even have any goals to set in place, you need to ask yourself some questions. Questions push people to figure out the answers on their own. What do you really want to get out of life? What's most important to you? Do you do better working in groups? Have you been getting more done by yourself? Would you have the discipline to work freelance by yourself? Would it be worth it to overcome your social anxiety to go vend at an event? Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Ask questions to the people out there who have achieved their dreams. Soak up as much knowledge as you can from other people's mistakes, failures, experiences, and success. This can take years or decades off your dream journey because you wont have to reinvent the wheel.

3. Dream Big Dreams

You're gonna wanna shoot for the stars. You want to think up some goals that you'll actually be excited about and motivate you to see them through to completion. What would the perfect situation look like? What would you do if you had unlimited resources? It should be big enough to kind of scare you. Bigger dreams often come with bigger responsibilities. Your big dream is your personal internal compass that guides you through your life’s journey. It's your compelling reason to get out of bed every morning. It's okay to have more than one big dream, but it's usually best to focus on one, then use the momentum from succeeding at your first dream to fuel the others.

4. Break it down

Turn your big dream into action and reality by converting your dream into goals. Begin by clearly defining the goals. Identify which actions you have to take to achieve your goals then breakdown the big actions into smaller tasks – think of tasks as ‘to-do list’ items. Write out as many of these list items as possible, from the biggest dream to the smallest to-do item. Then start categorizing them by timeframes, Long term, mid term, short term. Your available time and commitments will dictate what these time frames look like, but you should have tasks you can do right now, and ones that will take many many years in the future (or so you think ).

5. Take Action!!

Determine which goals, tasks, and steps will take you the farthest and make the most impact, and make those a priority. Take out your list and read it everyday. When you complete a task, draw a line through it. Having that visual and physical que of crossing it out is pretty damn satisfying. Celebrate when you reach a milestone.

The dopamine released from each small win propels you forward. See how many tasks you can cross out in a day. But don't beat yourself up too much if you skip a day or two here and there. If you don't take care of your physical, emotional, and mental health then there's no way you can focus on sticking with those goals you're setting right now. If it's written down you can always come back to it, as long as you're making slow steady progress towards your big dream.

Revise and update your goals regularly. There's probably no instruction manual for your big dream, especially if you're an artist. But don't underestimate the power of consistently taking action. Don't let the fear of failure or crippling self doubt crush your dreams. The list of dream killers is a long one, but just the act of having them written down and at least some basic structure of a plan to build from will put you leagues ahead of most other artists out there. Defining a wish turns it into a dream. Writing down a dream and a deadline turns it into a goal. And goals combined with a plan and actions can make those dreams a reality.


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