Episode 3


Goal Setting for Creatives

About this episode

It's the new year, so that means new year new you, right?! Wrong! Let's talk about setting goals - if you want to, if you don't want to, and how to keep yourself accountable if you do! Setting goals can be useful, but it's not vital from a creativity perspective. In this episode I'll tell you how I work with my own goals and how I think you can set your own and stick to them.

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Goal Setting for Creatives

As this is the first episode of the new year I thought I’d tell you why it doesn’t have to be new year new you, and why the old you is doing just fine… welcome to The Positive Creatives!

The Positive Creatives, woah-oh-oh
Inspiring, empowering creative souls
Whatever you create you’ll find inspiration here
We’ll make sure your motivation never disappears
You can chase your passion and live out your dreams
The Positive Creatives, exactly what you need!

Hey there! Thanks for coming back for more if you’re a regular listener… can you even be a regular listener after just three episodes?! I don’t know but I’m gonna go for yes, so congratulations you’re a regular.

If you’re new then welcome – my name’s Adam and I’m here to help you stay on a positive path in your creative life!

So it’s not 2020 any more. Does that mean the world is fixed?!

I feel like so many of us have so much riding on 2021, it’s a lot of pressure for a year. Also I’m voting that we turn 2020 into an adjective now… like when something bad happens we can be like ‘oh man that’s so 2020’… like ‘you broke your leg, ah what a 2020 thing to happen’.

But seriously – happy new year. I hope you had a nice time saying good riddance to 2020 if that’s how you felt. I’m seeing a lot of people expressing gratitude for 2020 as a year of change, of becoming more self aware, of maybe realising if you were working too hard or focusing your attention in all the wrong places. Whether you thought 2020 was good or bad, I hope 2021 is better and the start of great things for you in life, in work and in creativity.

A lot changed for me in 2020. I said goodbye to one of my businesses that I’d been working on for 6 years because it didn’t feel right for me any more and I wanted time to do some new things. I found a new level of gratitude for the so-called freelance life… back in the days when I had office jobs I always had low level anxiety about losing my job and how little control I had. In the last year even though I was hardly working, I really felt that I had much more control of my life and – as cheesy as it may sound – my destiny.

I’m not gonna lie, in the first lockdown I had some dramatic moments where I felt like it was going to be the end of my business and I was going to have to go back and get a real job, but once I got over that meltdown and focused on what I could do, I realised it was all in my hands and I was going to make sure me and my family got through it. And we did. And we’ll get through 2021 too whatever that has in store for us. And that’s a good feeling.

And the same goes for you. However 2020 went for you, you made it to 2021. And that feels like an achievement to be celebrated!

But it is 2021. It’s the new year, and of course with the new year comes the pressure to reinvent yourself – the old classic ‘new year new you’ mantra is being rolled out all over the place, we’re bombarded with tiktoks and reels about how to smash 2021, get rich, get famous, get more followers and all that jazz.

So today I thought I’d talk a bit about goal setting for creatives. Get practical about it, and – revelation – I’m not trying to sell you anything here so you should be able to trust that my advice is genuine!

Personally I do see the new year as a fresh start, I get a lot of inspiration from the feeling of a year being a blank piece of paper – especially on a creative level. In a normal year, as a wedding photographer, by May I’m ultra busy and it doesn’t really quieten down until October so I know that the first few months of the year are where I can lay the foundations for the photos I’m going to make once I get busy and it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.

Now I should just say that on this podcast my advice and what I talk about will always be more about the creative side of what we do, as opposed to the business side of things. That’s not because I think the business side isn’t important, but I just think there’s so much out there about the business and marketing side, and not enough about the creative side and that’s why I created this podcast.

Because I became a creative to be creative. I wanted to take photos all the time. I wanted to be a photographer. I realised early on if I wanted to be a photographer I had to be able to run a business and I’ve done well at the business side. I’ve been a full time photographer since 2011 and all our family’s income has come from photography since 2015. I’m proud of that, but… there’s always a but…

On paper my most successful years financially were not the ones where I was hyper focused on business. This is definitely true of the photography industry and having asked around it seems true of many creative industries – the last two years have seen a big shift towards creative business, creative entrepreneurs and things like this… I had my head turned by that, and also I’ve been teaching more about business than creativity in the last two years and do you know what? As my attention has moved away from making pictures and towards making money, I’ve actually made less money and my pictures don’t feel as good. Work that one out!

So that’s what really fuelled my desire to make a podcast about creativity, and that’s why you won’t often find me waxing lyrical about business. I will talk about business from time to time for sure, but I also believe that in a creative business you can’t let your focus drift away from the creativity.

Hopefully that makes some sense!

So yeah, I’m talking about goals but I’m not talking about business goals, I’m talking about creative goals.

First of all – do you need to set goals.

The answer is of course… no!

I mentioned earlier that I personally do see a line in the sand at the start of a new year and I like to use it as an opportunity to take a look at things, do some soul searching and some self analysis and have a general think about what I’d like to achieve in the next 12 months. But if you don’t feel that way, if you don’t want to make plans or set goals for your creativity and you just want it to continue to flow organically and naturally then that’s amazing, I’m even slightly envious.

You should absolutely feel allowed to ignore all the goal-setting billboards that we’re bombarded with and just carry on making your art.

But if you are someone who likes making new year plans like me then I’ve got some good advice for you. So stay tuned. Actually even if you don’t want to then you should still stay tuned, just for fun!

I’ve got a great friend who lives in Malta. He’s a wonderful photographer and one of my favourite people, and he just happens to be a highly trained expert in psychology too which is very helpful.

Whenever we’re talking – which isn’t often enough Shane if you’re listening – I’m usually moaning about something or getting some free therapy out of him, and he always asks me ‘is what you’re doing helping you get to where you want to be?’.

It’s such a simple question to be asked, and to ask yourself.

Is what you’re doing helping you get to where you want to be?

I mentioned earlier that I became a photographer to be a photographer. But that’s only part of the story. I actually wanted to be a photographer to make it so that me and my wife could be the most present parents possible and live as much of our lives at home with our kids…

There was a day I was at my old job. I’d just had three days off to care for my sick child at home. As soon as I got back to work I had to have a meeting to explain why I’d been off work, why I’d needed to care for my child, and that was the moment I knew I had to take back the reins of my own life. There was no way I was explaining to someone why I needed to be at home for my son, and needless to say that meeting didn’t go well.

Why am I telling you this? Well it goes back to that question – is what you’re doing helping you get to where you want to go?

As cliche as it sounds – knowing your why is the basis for setting your goals. In life, in business and in creativity. I have to remind myself of this all the time.

One of the lines in the positive creatives mantra is to stay on your own path. And that’s what I’m talking about when I say you need to know your why – to know what it is that makes you tick. These days it’s all too easy to spend 5 nanoseconds on instagram and think something else is important. Like getting ten thousand followers for instance. Revelation – more followers won’t make your work any better.

Anyway back to goal setting.

So you know your ‘why’. And if you don’t, then spend some time figuring that out. The easiest way is to think back to why you chose to be a creative. Sure your goals will have evolved since then but the fundamental reason for doing what you do won’t have moved far. I still want to spend as much of my life as possible being creative, and to create a life where we’re home all the time for our kids while they’re growing up. Over the last 4 or 5 years I’ve also realised how much I love to travel and need that in my life so that’s become an important consideration when I’m making plans too – making sure that what I’m doing is helping me get to where I want to go.

So my goals need to be based around all that. And your goals need to be based around your own personal why.

Once you know that you can start deciding the specific goals for the next year.

The mistake I often make is setting way too many goals for myself. I have a really high expectation of my own productivity… the downside of that is I suffer from burnout once every few weeks and need to hibernate. I also get myself down when I feel like I’m not achieving everything I think I should be achieving, so this year I’m going to set myself some more realistic goals.

Away from creativity of course as usual I want to get fitter and get in better shape, but that’s a terrible goal. So my actual goal is to do 30-40 minutes of actual exercise at least 5 days a week.

I know that’s not a creative goal but I’m using it as an example for a reason.

Let’s say I said I want to lose 20 kilos. I have absolutely no control over that, 20 kilos means nothing, I might not even be able to lose 20 kilos. I may lose 20 kilos but that’s kind of out of my hands.

What is in my hands is the amount of time I commit to exercising. I can make sure I do my 30-40 minutes. I can stay accountable to myself with that and realistically that’s going to mean I get in better shape than I currently am with my approximately zero minutes of exercise a day that I do now.

Something I’ve been incredibly inspired by on instagram since I started the account for this podcast is seeing how many creatives are creating every day just for the sake of creating. Graphic designers, lettering artists, illustrators, painters, embroiderers – all these different people I’ve been following lately, and something a lot of you have in common is creating every day just to create something new and keep up with your practice.

I think I do create most days, but it’s a bit all over the place and I want to do it more consciously so I’ll be putting more focus onto just making photos or videos just for the sake of it this year, taking my camera out with me on at least one photo walk per week just to make photos or videos for the sake of it. And I’ve decided to create a website for those pointless photos to live on. I might even call it Adam’s pointless photos!

Last year I decided I wanted to get myself back on a more creative path – one thing I wanted to do was start a podcast about creativity, and here we are. So you see you can set goals when it isn’t January!

And I know that by being more focused with my picture making I’ll make more pictures than if I wasn’t.

And like I said earlier, my most successful years in business were when I cared more about creativity and business so I have faith that this will also benefit my business and keep the money coming in to support the lifestyle we want for our family.

Notice that my goals are specific, measurable and achievable. This is really important. If your goals are too vague then you won’t know if you’re achieving them, eventually you’ll lose interest and forget all about them.

Put something in your diary for the end of each month to check in with yourself about your goals. Or even better, pick a creative friend, help each other set goals, and then have an end of month meeting where you keep each other accountable and on track.

So work out your why, set some specific and achievable goals to keep you on that path towards where you’re wanting to go, and do something regularly to keep yourself accountable.

I’m going to be making some posts on instagram this week about goal setting so come over and join the conversation @thepositivecreatives – or you can always drop me a DM on instagram or email me through the website thepositivecreatives.com

I hope you’re enjoying my listen, read, watch section at the end of each episode – please let me know if you are. Here are this week’s recommendations:

Listen: one of my favourite bands The Avalanches recently released a new album and I think it’s a masterpiece. It’s called We Will Always Love You. It’s so good!

Read: I’ve just finished a book Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King. It’s based on the law of attraction if you’re into that kind of thing but it’s actually a more practical and considered look at it, from a different perspective. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Watch: Now a few people have told me I’ve overhyped this so I’ll try and keep it a low key recommendation. Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen on TV. My TV character idol used to be Phil Dunphy from Modern Family. Not any more! Ted Lasso is my new number one, and my final goal for 2021 is to be more Ted!

Alright you guys, that’s it for this week. As I said I’d love to hear from you on instagram @thepositivecreatives or through the website thepositivecreatives.com to let me know what you think of the podcast after three episodes or just for a chat – I’d love to meet some new people and I’m loving getting to experience more art outside of photography.

If you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe. And I’ll see you next week on The Positive Creatives. Have a good one!

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