Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

A Simple 5-Step System for Reaching Your Creative Goals

This time of year, it’s impossible to avoid the topic of goal-setting. It’s less than two weeks before Christmas, and the New Year is quickly approaching. It’s a natural time to reflect on the past year, and consider what we want to accomplish in the coming year.

A little math

Let’s do a little math. What if you spent just one hour each weekday working on a major creative goal or project? Over the course of a year, that adds up to over 250 hours, or over six 40-hour workweeks.

What could you do with the equivalent of an extra six weeks over the next year? You could write a book, read a bunch of books, start a business, get healthier, learn a new creative skill, plan an overseas trip, write a musical, start a podcast, or any of a hundred other things.

One thing that I always keep in mind is this: any goal that improves my life also improves my creativity. Any goals related to health, finances, relationships, spiritual growth, or another area that enhances your life will also help you be more creative. In that sense, all positive goals are creative goals.

So how do you use a year to its full advantage? How can you make your vision a reality? Over the last couple of years, I have used a very simple, 5-step system for creating and tracking my goals. I encourage you to review these steps and use what works for you.

A 5-step system

1. Set goals that will stretch you, but are realistic.

When I think about my annual goals, I try to aim for 25% more than what I think is realistic. This way, the goal is still in the realistic range, but it will stretch me beyond what I think is possible. (For a great book on goal-setting, check out Ready Aim Fire! A Practical Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals by Jim Woods and Erik Fisher.)

I shoot for 5-7 major goals for the year. Any fewer than that, and it’s not as much of a challenge. Any more than that, and you will set yourself up for failure because you’re trying to focus on too many things.

2. Write down your goals where you can see them often.

A goal is not tangible until you write it down. I keep a list of my goals in Evernote app. I have a separate note for each goal, where I include the specific goal (i.e. “lose 20 lbs. by June 30”) as well as my motivations for achieving the goal (i.e. “Because I will feel better, look better, and have more energy for my work and family”).

I keep a list of all of my goals in an Evernote notebook called “Goals” (pretty creative title, eh?). I also have a shortcut to this notebook so I can quickly access it on my laptop and phone.

The tool isn’t important. Use what works for you. The important thing is that you write down your goals and why you want to achieve them.

3. Track your progress and adjust as necessary.

Every week, either on Sunday evening or Monday morning, I do a weekly review of my goals. I don’t make progress every week. In fact, sometimes I fail miserably. That’s okay because at least I know where I stand in relationship to the overall goal.

Each week I have a specific target for most of these goals. (I don’t work on every goal each week.) For instance, it might be losing 2 lbs., writing a certain number of words, or having a date night with my wife Melanie. I write this down in Evernote so it’s a concrete target.

I review my goals several times a week and make adjustments as necessary. I also establish targets one or two months in the future for specific projects such as a book launch or online course I need to finish.

4. Get support and accountability from friends.

You will reach more of your goals if you share your progress with others. Being a part of a mastermind has been very important in helping me make progress toward my goals. Every week when we meet, I walk through the goals I set for the past week, any progress I made toward them, and what I plan to do the coming week.

It’s important to have a supportive team who will encourage you to be your best, but will also challenge you to reach higher than you would on your own.

5. Make a little progress every day.

Darren Hardy, publisher of Success magazine, wrote a great book called The Compound Effect. The essence of the book is that successful people make positive incremental changes, and over time those changes produce huge results.

Every single day counts

Remember that success is a marathon, not a sprint. When you look at others who have been successful, remember that they have worked for years to get where they are. They have put in the time and are reaping the rewards of their effort.

Don’t get discouraged when you see the distance between where you are and where you want to be. Success isn’t a destination that exists in the future. Success happens every day when you make good choices that propel you toward a better future.

Every single day counts. In fact, all you have are days. Your life is just a collection of years, and a year is just a collection of 365 days. Make every day count.

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he began with a detailed plan. What’s your plan? As an artist, you value creativity, fresh ideas and being spontaneous. But inspiration is worthless unless you follow it with action.

These 5 steps comprise a system that is simple, but certainly not easy. Nothing worthwhile is every easy. But over the course of a year, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish when you set goals and make steady progress toward them.

Do you have a goal-setting process? How has it worked for you so far?

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.

  • Michael Scanzello

    I agree doing a small thing everyday towards a big goal is key! Also need to make sure your excitement is there as you do that small thing. Lots of times I trick myself into spending 15 minutes on a project to have it balloon to 3 hours! If this doesn’t happen as you work on that big goal could mean you aren’t interested enough to succeed. It’s a good time to reevaluate and see if there is a better goal to go for. Everyday is precious and should be fun!

    • Thanks Michael – such great points. Every single day is precious, and as I think about the coming year, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that I will even be around. 🙂 The hardest part for me with any project is getting started and not feeling overwhelmed. I have an analytical mind and see the whole thing at once, and it’s paralyzing sometimes. But just getting started and having an action plan, and great friends, is a huge part of success.

      • Michael Scanzello

        Yes, need good friends and family to support you during the “construction” phase of a big project, always feels like it’s that phase.

  • “Make a little progress every day” is huge. I used to think I needed to completely finish something each day. Now, it’s all done in pieces, and I don’t drive myself completely bonkers if I don’t finish something. 🙂

    • Great point, Dan. Have you ever read “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy? He talks about doing a little each day, and how eventually you reap big rewards. It’s hard not to think in “feast or famine” mode, where life is either all stress/work or all rest/play. For me, when I make it more about the joy of doing the work itself, instead of just reaching a goal, then I feel satisfaction every day in accomplishing something.

      • I haven’t, but that’s another one that is on my Amazon wishlist!

        I’ve had to battle feast or famine mode for a long time. Only within the last year have I realized, like you said, I can enjoy the process. Seeing a little bit of improvement each day towards a final product is still progress!

        • I find myself really resisting writing because it is hard work. But I like the result–having a book, blog post, or whatever. I’m trying to learn to enjoy the process more myself.