Of the importance of setting goals

Of the importance of setting goals

I believe any photographer – any artist, really – should have goals. As a creative, a lot of people might feel uncomfortable with such a rigid approach, and you may want to “go with the flow”, but often the flow doesn’t lead anywhere. This is where setting goals can help.

But why would you need goals? The first, most obvious answer is to push and motivate you. Having an objective will help you go forward. More importantly, setting goals will force you to stop and think about your art. Where are you now and where do you want to be in a year (or any period of time)? These are two very important questions and you should take your time to answer.

For example, I consider that I am at a stage where I have a strong technical foundation, which allows me to achieve the results I want. In 2 or 3 years, I want to have a strong creative vision with a more unique style and I want to have a recurring income from photography. These two situations help me set goals to go from one to the other.

Accepting your fate  |  Downtown - Chicago, IL

Accepting your fate | Downtown – Chicago, IL

This type of thinking is great to understand what your art is about and where you want to take it. Once you know the general direction, then you can start thinking about a more structured approach and you can start setting some goals.

My background is Industrial Engineering, including project management. This helps me organizing my photography and I have learned a few tricks on how to set attainable objectives. As a creative, it can be hard to sit and write things down, but all you need is the right methodology.

It is very important to set small, incremental goals. Do not choose big, unattainable goals that will scare you and discourage you. If you have such goals, break them into smaller, short-term tasks that will lead to the larger strategy.

The Heart Of The City | Chicago River - Chicago, IL

The Heart Of The City | Chicago River – Chicago, IL

To make sense, your goals should be quantified (e.g. publish two posts a week, take three workshops this year). It will allow you to assess how good you did. You should also put a deadline, to give you a real incentive. You will less tempted to push it back.

Here are some examples of my current goals (dated and quantified):

  • Attend at least one workshop in 2014.
  • Publish a newsletter every month.
  • Publish 10 video tutorials in 2014.
  • Visit at least 5 cities this year.
She was alone in a crowd of squares | Gateway Arch - St Louis, MO

She was alone in a crowd of squares | Gateway Arch – St Louis, MO

At the end of each year (or month, or quarter), it is always a good idea to assess your results. You will know where you are and if you should correct the course towards you larger strategy. Understand why you succeeded and why you failed. Lessons learned will be useful to set new goals.

Finally, I would encourage you to write these goals down to hold yourself accountable. It can be on a piece of paper, on your computer, it does not matter. Since last year, I publish a post with my goals on my blog in January. I also published my assessment for 2013 and I will continue to do so. It keeps me motivated!

What about you? Please share your own goals in the comments. What is motivating you and where do you want your art to be next year?

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