shutterstock_162342989Hi, I’m Kathy, Director of Focus here at We Create. Weird job title, I know, but focus is a key component of being a successful creative. Sometimes it’s about being able to wrap your arms around a huge idea and find the structure needed to make it a viable project. Other times it is about defining boundaries, so we know what we have to work within, or bust through. A lot of the time, it’s about perspective and taking a look at things from a different angle. I’ll be sharing strategies for incorporating focus into your creative practices both here on the blog and over in our forums. And that’s what I want to talk about today. How shifting your focus when thinking about your goals can not only make them more achievable, but make you happier along the way.

It’s that time of the year when we reflect back on all the things we meant to do this year, but didn’t. We beat ourselves up about it. We write up a new list of resolutions and promise ourselves this year we’ll stick to them. And then we get busy with life and work and somehow, we fall off the resolution wagon and forget about them. Maybe we bring them out midyear and feel awful for not accomplishing what we set out to do. “If only I had the time,” we think to ourselves. We vow to do better. Then December rolls around again and we’re right back where we started. Feeling bad about our lack of motivation, or time, or the fact that we didn’t even know where to begin.

We set goals because we want to change our life in some way. But we spend so much time focused on the final destination that we neglect the journey. And the journey – the work you have to do in order to reach the goal – is the most important part. So let’s do it differently this year.

Let’s focus on the journey and not just the end result. How will your life look this year as you’re traveling towards your goals? What changes will you have to make to get there and how will you incorporate those changes into your regular everyday life? Sitting down and writing about your goals in a meaningful way can be helpful. It can bring the changes you need to make into sharper focus and make them easier to incorporate into your life. I want you to grab a pen and paper and sit down to write about your life next year. What will your creative life look like? Here are a few prompts to help you get started:

  • How do I want to spend my time in 2016?
  • What do I want to explore or learn about this year?
  • What activities am I passionate about?
  • With whom do I want to do these things?

An old goal for me might have been: “I will post more on my blog, at least once a week.” Now let’s take a look at that same goal set in the frame of a journey rather than a destination.

“I am passionate about sharing my stories and adventures with people I care about. Writing and photography are an important part of that, and activities I enjoy immensely. But in the past I’ve not given them the proper place in my life. This year, I want to give myself the time to share the stories of our life with people I care about who live far away. I want to let myself off the hook to simply share my experiences, and let go of the worry of being judged for writing something imperfect or not having a photo spread worthy of National Geographic. I want to spend my time pursuing creative activities I enjoy rather than watching TV or wasting my precious free time in other ways. I want to write and shoot photos everyday. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes and consists of a few cell phone pictures and some scribbled notes on a napkin. And I want to enjoy sharing it with people who are equally passionate about those things: my husband, my friends, my mentors, and people I meet along the way.”

Which way of talking about my goal do you think is going to be more powerful for me in the coming year?

Okay, so now you have an idea of the journey you want to take this year. You have intention. But it’s only half of the process. Now it’s time to take that journey and determine what your goals are and how you’ll break those down into changes in your life and routine. Here are a few prompts to help get that part started:

  • Where is your journey leading you? (What is the ultimate goal?)
  • What changes do you need to make in your routine, in order to create and maintain your journey?
  • How will you incorporate those changes into your regular routine?
  • What obstacles will you encounter along the way?
  • How will you follow up?

“My journey is leading me to spend more time focusing on writing and photography, with the ultimate goal of posting weekly on my blog. I need to set aside time in my daily routine to focus on the fun of writing and photography – and then guard that time. In the past, I’ve scheduled creative time late in the day and then ended up feeling uninspired or tired. So I need to schedule my creative time in the mornings, when I’m fresh and fired up and ready to go. I am setting a new routine for myself for the first three months of the year: 30 minutes of creative play everyday at 7 am, devoted to writing and photography. And when that 30 minutes of time is up, I walk away, whether I’m finished or not. I can pick it back up the next day, or even later that same day if I have the time. That gives me 3.5 hours of time a week focused on writing and photography, more than enough time to produce a weekly post for my blog. In the past, I’ve held off on publishing because I didn’t think the post was quite ready or I was waiting to add in a component that I didn’t have time to work on yet. This year, I will let go of the idea that my blog has to be perfect and publish a post every Wednesday at 10 am, whether I think it is perfect or not. At the end of three months, I’ll take a look back at how I’ve done and make any necessary changes to keep it going through the rest of the year.”

So now I’ve taken the journey I want to take during this year – spending more time on creative pursuits and sharing more of my life on my blog – and created tangible goals and steps to get there. I’ve spent time thinking about what I want my life to look like and writing about it in a way that is meaningful to me, rather than just focusing on the final goal. Now I have a plan.

I’ve also done one more key thing: I’ve incorporated change into the plan. I’ve built in the ability to alter my goals and strategies along the way as my life evolves. Goals need room to grow, and by building in time to explore and revisit your goals on a regular basis, you give yourself the flexibility to make changes to your goals in order to continue to support and further your journey. Or even outright change them when life takes an unexpected turn.

So what have we done that is so different from just making a list? We’ve shifted the focus from the end result (the goal) to the journey (what we want our regular life to look like along the way). And we’ve taken the time to sit down, think about it, and write it all out. We’ve created a roadmap that will lead us to our final destination. And that is a lot more powerful than a To Do list of resolutions.

We set goals because we want to change our lives, in ways both big and small. By focusing on the journey and what we want our life to look like, rather than just looking at our end goal, we’re creating the change that needs to happen in our daily life in order to reach our goal. It’s a small shift in focus, but a powerful one.

What do you want your creative life to look like in 2016? Come share it over on our Focus forum.

Still not sure what your creative life will look like next year? Creative Spark is a 30 day journey that will help you find the clarity, focus and spark in your creative work. It’s perfect for beginners or established creatives looking to make a change. Sign up now! It’s free!