Nothing gets wasted more often than inspiration. Sure, it’s the spark to something much larger, but far too often it fizzles, flashes, and ceases to exist. Poof. Gone. So, a word of warning: Don’t let your moment of inspiration go to waste. It may be temporary, there’s so much power behind it — and you can use that energy to bring something beautiful to life.
So, in the spirit of actionable inspiration, we thought we’d take a minute to talk about goals. We know, it’s not the sexiest topic, but a well-set goal can be the difference between a pleasant ‘aha’ moment and a completed film. Or a new working relationship. Maybe even a new career.
Goals, ultimately, are a reference. They give you a measurable result to your endeavor, the ability to take in data and make adjustments. But, more than that, they give you the ability to show yourself that you’re serious. It’s easy to be inspired; it’s not always easy to do something with that inspiration. And it all starts with goals, especially goals that are set with intentionality. Here are a few tips for setting your own:
Make them boring.
Ok, maybe boring is the wrong word. But, more often than not, the best goals don’t sound that sexy when you say them out loud. Sure, it’s fun to set a goal like, “I want to be a better filmmaker” or “up my VFX game.” Sounds great, right? But you can’t attach any metrics to that. This is the number one reason people fail with New Year’s resolutions. You can’t measure “healthier.” You can, however, sign up for a marathon.
A good goal needs to have some down-to-earth, measurable data attached to it. So, instead of saying you want to be a better filmmaker, set a goal of getting your film into three film festivals. Say you want your next Vimeo release to get at least 10,000 views. Sometimes it can feel off-putting to attach cold data to your craft. But, if you’re serious, you need some way to measure its success. When you set metrics to your goal, you know without a doubt if you’ve succeeded or failed, which is terrifying, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Think bigger than the raft.
Imagine you’re on a deserted island. It’s hot, sandy, and the iguanas are aggressive as hell. You need to get out. So, when you’re setting a goal, it’d make sense to say: “let’s build a raft.” But, upon further examination, that goal may be a bit limiting. It doesn’t say anything about what you’re really trying to achieve or give any rigid requirements. It doesn’t put the bigger picture into play. However, if your goal was to, say, “get off of the island alive,” then we can start to think a bit differently. You’d need a quality raft. You’d need food for the journey. You’d need to map out your route. A plan starts to form simply by picking the right goal, and all of the steps fall into place.
What we’re getting at is this: being specific isn’t always good enough. The right goal will lay out a plan right in front of you, even let you know what steps to take. If your goal is to get in touch with a great composer, that may seem great, but what’s the real goal? Maybe to get that score finished? All of a sudden you realize you need to not only get a musician, but be able to deliver creative vision to her, or even book studio space. If you set the right goal, it can serve as the groundwork for a pretty great plan too.
Things might get scary.
This is our favorite part of setting goals. If you’re not putting something on your plate that makes your heart skip a beat, then is it worth going after? If our goals scare us a bit, then they’re probably worth working towards. They matter to us. Alternatively, if our goals matter to us, then we should absolutely fear falling short of them. That seems natural.
Also, a scary goal is a great motivator. If you set a goal that makes you a little nervous, then chances are you’ll be more willing to do what it takes to make it happen. If you can’t imagine that film not happening, then you’ll probably take a chance and go talk to that DP or ask that producer for some funding. Scary goals make us scrappy and force us to get creative about how to achieve them.
Focus on the task at hand.
A smart goal will set you up for success, not distract you. Instead of adding things to your already-mounting list of things to get done, focus on what you’re already trying to do and hone in on that. It’s easy to get distracted by exciting new ideas and even other creatives’ goals, but don’t forget what sparked that moment of inspiration in the first place.
Sure, goals can be exciting and open up new possibilities, but they’re also an exercise in efficiency — making the most out of the resources you have at hand. They force you to make important (and, yes, difficult) decisions about what you really want. By the time you get to the goal-setting phase, you should have distilled your vision to a simple mission. Here’s how Steve Jobs defined it:
“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
It takes bravery and confidence to draw a line in the sand, especially when it comes to your goals. But, it’s also an important first step in the right direction — towards “done.”