What To Do When Goals Fence You In
Some years ago, just when my practice was starting to go really well, while going through my to do lists, I felt anxiety and exhaustion. I was wondering where this feeling came from, since I was on track. I loved my job, I loved to stay organized and “know” what my goals are. I loved to also keep the different areas of my life organized. I am not talking about the must do lists, we all have to face, like finishing the tax declaration by a certain date or being at the airport on time). My endless to do lists began to exhaust me.
As a creative mind, my heart began to back off from the goal. My mind started to chat and doubt: do you still want this? Too much work? Your pay should be better… and whoops, the magic had disappeared. Adjusting the goals to feel better, did not make any difference.
Whenever you feel that your goals keep you in a box or turning in circles. When your wellbeing and even your health and energy begin to run low, consider to stop setting goals.
Especially when you are self-managing your career, you might think that goal setting is essential. If it motivates you or helps your inner peace-fine. This is your way. Those artists who struggle and feel overwhelmed: replace your goals by visions.
Since everything happens online and is so visible, we automatically see what other artists do and accomplish. We see a website and think: oh, I need this website and we begin to measure our career to external references, distracting us from the original goal. Sometimes we even trick ourselves into thinking that it will help us reach the goal. Our happiness and fulfillment is more and more influenced by outside distractions. If this happens to you, replace your goals by visions.
Managers or artistic directors sometimes complain to me: “this or that artists, just never gets hold of his career and to be on time. He is so ruled by his emotions. He is really nice but he just does not know how to organize himself” Likes are that this artist is trying to live a system that is not his. My answer goes something like this: “If you ask a person to be creative and you are hiring an artist (most of the time a disciplined artist who invested in his career), do not expect him to put his productiveness into a box. It will surely kill any good work relation and results.”
Everything in our world is about limitless creation, it must, sooner or later, cause exhaustion to be too linear about anything. Still there are goal setting workshops out there that help you set goals for every area of your life and what steps to take to accomplish them. Some artists try hard to succeed in following this path and become very frustrated if they keep failing. What if it just means that you are a “visionary”?
If you feel pressured by your goals or by reaching your goals. Stop. Are you happy? Does it bring anxiety to you? Look at your feelings. For a moment, breath, feel, be in the now. You are good now. You are breathing. You are living. Things are the way they are. Just be. Maybe you might even feel a bit of gratitude coming up or worries. Resistance. It is ok. Keep feeling and being in the now. It is, just for the moment, it is o.k. to not know what is next, what you want and what you do not want. Just be. Until you feel opening up or relaxing. I am not asking you to meditate all day, it is not realistic.
Now allow a vision of what feels good, what work you want to create artistically, the life you want to feel to appear in your minds eye. Just experiment with what feels good. Release it again. Know that this vision will pull you forward. You do not need to create a to do list and break it down in steps. To journal about it or create a vision board. Do not make life more difficult than it is. Envision it just as if you would order coffee at a restaurant (you will not worry about how the waiter will accomplish the task and if he is able to either).
Your vision will feel more natural or organic than the goals. Less precise. Your vision will open you to magic. You will not need to balance all the specific goals you have to get on. There will be less feeling of never enough. It will keep you focused on the now and the vision in your heart (because, you will remember it automatically throughout the day). You can just do it in the morning. Keep focusing. You can keep it flexible and adjust it to the challenges of daily life. Even if you are waiting at the airport or in queue, in daily challenges that overwhelm you, remember your vision and see how the solution can feel now.
You do not have to work so hard to create your future and keep control but your vision will pull you and guide your steps.
Claudia Kohl is an artist, Alexander
Technique coach, designer and author. She is the founder of The Artists Coaching in Berlin, a studio dedicated to support artists in their creative, artistic process as well as life. She has helped singers, musicians, actors, dancers and circus artists, to build a healthy and inspired carrier. Claudia likes to work with artists suffering from anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, chronic pain, burnout or artists with the courage to start something new. She comes from a background of theatre and dance before studying the Alexander Technique and developing her own method with the artists of the famous Cirque du Soleil. As a nomad and curious soul she has traveled and experienced more than most people do in their lifetime. She believes that art is what we are and that it is our responsibility to make the world a better place. She is known for her down to earth, loving and highly inspired, engaging approach to coaching. Claudia’s insights inspire audiences around the world through her monthly “Inspiration” newsletter and online coaching. For artists in Berlin, besides one on one sessions, she offers weekly Bohemian Brunches and Artistic Vision Quests.