Some artists I know don’t set ambitious goals for themselves because they feel like they can’t control whether they are going to be successful: the art world is tough, it is often driven by trends, other people’s subjective opinions have an outsized impact on your career, plus, the market is flooded with talented artists who want to sell their work and their time.
Other artists I’ve met don’t take the actions required to achieve their goals because they don’t know where to start.
In this post, I want to encourage you to focus on aspects of your goals that you can actually control and then take the actions required for success.
To do this, we’ll tune into what Sean Covey calls “lead measures” in his famous book The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Lead measures are activities/actions that will help lead to the achievement of your ultimate goal, which he calls the “lag measure.”
The classic example Covey gives to explain the relationships between lead and lag measures has to do with weight loss: if your lag measure is to lose 10 pounds (after you’ve lost 10 pounds you’ll know that you’ve achieved your goal), your lead measures (the things you can influence or control, and therefore must act on) are likely to be diet and exercise.
What would this look like for an artistic goal?
If your lag measure is to win an arts grant, your lead measures will likely revolve around researching multiple arts grants, writing multiple grant proposals, and finally applying for grants. You don't have complete control over whether you win an arts grant, but you do have control over how many grants you apply for.
If your lag measure is to sell more art, your lead measures might involve designing a marketing campaign, posting daily on social media, contacting previous buyers, applying to be part of exhibitions, or honing your artistic skills.
If your lag measure is to spend more time in the studio, your lead measure might involve hiring someone to clean your house or help manage your business, talking to your significant other about splitting up household chores, waking up an hour earlier each day, or giving up your Netflix subscription.
Not sure where to start? Want more guidance?
This post is written with deep thanks to my dear friend and respected colleague Richard Hoshino of Hoshino Math Services (richardhoshino.com). I’ll always be grateful for the time that he told me, his boss at the time, that he wouldn’t come to a meeting I was going to host if we were just going to sit around talking about our goals without making a plan to do something about them. He helped me understand that setting goals and planning to achieve them are two very different things!