What art offers is space—a certain breathing room for the spirit. —John Updike 

Most people who are interested in productivity have heard of SMART goals. This acronym outlines a framework to help people ensure that their goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. For example, a SMART goal might be “write 100 pages of my novel by August 1.”

For artists, SMART goals can be useful. But we also need to make sure that we are crafting SPIRIT goals. 

Any achievement is only a single point in time. What many goal-setting and productivity frameworks ignore is the person who exists both before and beyond the achievement.

Many people begin running with the goal of participating in a 5K race on a certain date. That’s a SMART goal. Once this race is finished, the person has a choice—hang up their shoes, or truly become a runner. The choice to become a runner is a SPIRIT goal.  

SPIRIT goals are: 

Sustainable: SPIRIT goals are not a single point, but a way of being. Are you building habits that you can commit to?

Positive: State your goal as if you have accomplished your desire.

Important: Make sure that your goals are coming from what you really want, not what others expect of you.

Risky: Your goal should be a bit of a stretch.

Inviting: A SPIRIT goal should make you smile, not leave you feeling stressed.

Timely: These goals must fit into your life, not the other way around. A goal is not the same thing as a wish or a long-term aspiration; a goal requires action. Choose a SPIRIT goal that you can make progress on, or risk disappointment.

Some examples of SPIRIT Goals:

I write beautiful stories that move people.

I craft memoir that helps others understand their own experiences.

I regularly challenge myself creatively and commit time to my artistic practice.

Once you have this SPIRIT goal in mind, you can break it down into smaller SMART goals. A SPIRIT goal is a guiding light to make sure that you are taking the right steps along the path you intend to travel.