Nine reasons NOT to set goals for your creative endeavours

Last week I blogged about reasons it’s good to set goals. And, whilst I believe goal setting can be incredibly useful and instramental to our achievements, I also believe there are times when it’s better not to set goals.  Here’s nine reasons why…

  1. If we’re too focussed on achievement we can forget to experiment – definitely something I’m weaning myself off at the moment.
  2. Having  too many goals can be overwhelming.
  3. Training ourselves to focus on achievement can literally train our brains out of being so creative.
  4. Sometimes we get so focussed on a goal we continue too chase after it when it would be better to let go.
  5. We can fail to take the learning from an experience if the minute we’ve completed one goal we head off too quickly after the next.
  6. We can fail to relax sufficiently because we’re always thinking about deadlines.
  7. We can be in such a hurry to hit a deadline that we fail to enjoy the journey.
  8. Goals can make us feel under pressure and pressure can reduce creativity – although sometimes it can increase it!
  9. The mere thought they’re setting goals can instantly switch off some people’s creativity.

Having made those points, I concede, it’s true that well set goals and being aware of the possible pitfalls can stop us falling into these traps. Also, if you’re working on goals with a good professional coach, this should also facilitate increased creative thought and not reduce it. However, all in all, because creativity demands an amount of free thought, I do believe there are times when not setting a goal – or setting very loose goals – can be the best thing for us.

What do you think? Has this post and my two previous goal setting posts, here and here, encouraged or discouraged you from setting goals? Or perhaps there’s another change they’ve helped influence? Either way I’d love to hear about it.

Bekki Hill

31 thoughts on “Nine reasons NOT to set goals for your creative endeavours

  1. Great points Bekki. As you know, I’ve set myself the goal of not buying any fabric for one whole year and I’m hoping that will spark my creativity in one way by forcing me to make use of what I already have. I think setting goals for projects is useful, especially if you have limited time on your hands but you also need to set realistic goals, be flexible and not beat yourself up if you fail to achieve them. I realised I was setting unnecessary goals for myself – nobody was going to die if I didn’t finish this or that project by a certain time – so I try not to do it any more unless there is a very good reason for it.

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  2. You’ve outlined some of the main reasons why I stick with my goalless creativity! 😉 Especially having the flexibility to wander ”off track” in the midst of a WIP to experiment on a ”what if I…???” idea 🙂

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      1. Certainly will! …in fact after some Christmas place mats, I’ve now wandered off along the road of making a table runner – even though I had a Doorstop Dumpy planned next ;-/ Free spirit creativity does allow for going off of a tangent somewhat

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  3. I think I need to be a loose goal girl! My monthly challenge is making sure that the children don’t go down to the bottom of the pile with my makes but with my other makes unless there is an obvious deadline such as a birthday are just a case of choosing what suits my mood out of my wips 🙂 I have really enjoyed these posts Bekki, they have certainly got me thinking. x

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    1. Hi Sharon. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the posts. I think just keeping your priorities in your sights can often be far more effective than intricate goal setting, if you’ve got your priorities straight. And kids first certainly sounds straight to me 🙂 x

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  4. I’m good at setting goals….but, oh my, not so adept at following through. What I am good at though, is keeping my priorities in focus, so YAY! I can relax and not beat myself up so completely when I blow it, knowing that at least the things that are really important always get taken care of. Interesting posts, Bekki!

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    1. Thanks 🙂 Great to hear you’ve got your priorities in focus, it isn’t as easy as it sounds with such busy lives and outside pressures telling us we ‘should’ be doing this and that. 🙂


  5. I think I like to have loose objectives. I don’t know that I really go for goals. If my knitting gets into a rut, I generally need to look at what’s going on in other areas of my life to cause it. When all is well otherwise, knitting is an extension of my creativity and adventurous nature. Nothing wrong with having some outcomes in mind, though, or taking on challenging projects in order to learn new things. I just don’t want to put pressure on my knitting as it’s supposed to be fun for me 🙂

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  6. That point nine is definitely for me…. I am a challenge to teach anything to as I just end up exploring in a different direction can’t help it. The minute someone says this is what you do…. I have an irresistible urge to do the opposite. Its a good job I work alone mostly unsupervised! lol

    I am thrilled to read you are giving yourself time for exploration – I think that is why most children are joyful they get lost in the process and really have no concept of judgement. Picasso said ‘all children are artists, the challenge is to remain so when you grow up’

    Can’t wait to see where you go with your play.

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  7. I have found your posts about setting goals to be really useful because they encourage me to be mindful of my approach, and that is the most important thing. It is a good reminder to be aware of those times when setting goals might be helpful. Goals can, at times, be very motivating for me. Creatively, the key for me seems to be to set flexible goals that I adjust as I progress… A combination of goals and exploration. Thanks for your thought-provoking blog, Bekki.

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  8. I think I’d probably describe my goals as being very ‘loosely set’! I have definite goals for my writing, in particular, but never make them with a time limit. I know that if I were being pushed by a publisher etc. that would be vastly different. Right now, as a retired person, I’m happy to do things in my own time. I had too many years of teaching when they were not! I realise that I’ll have to tighten up, which I’d started before we came away, and will continue when we get home. Writing will take precedence over blogging from now on. I really enjoy reading your advice on goal-setting! 🙂

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    1. Hi Millie, glad you like the posts. I think if you have a publisher’s deadline it’s a bit different. More about being professional. Whereas it’s easier not to take our own deadlines so seriously. But yes, we need to be reasonably strict with ourselves or we’ll never finish. Well on tightening up!

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      1. I know – I’m already on a huge guilt trip! I need a bomb behind me right now. I’ve already informed all the family that after Malta, my book comes first! (I just need to keep telling myself the same thing!) 😀

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