A goalless draw

So much is written about the benefits and importance of setting goals, particularly with a largely solitary and personal task like writing. But can it be beneficial to not set goals?

Goals, where a combination of achievable and aspirational, help with short-term motivation and long-term vision. They help one to focus and stay disciplined, get organised, manage one’s time. It’s promoted as the key to achievement. Being January, we’ll all have read a lot about setting resolutions for the new year.

And I am bought in to that, I really am.

Generally speaking, I am a goal-setter, an inveterate list maker, and have benefited in moving my writing forward in the context of a busy life thanks to setting myself objectives. These have included self-imposed deadlines, word limits, and a ‘something everyday’ promise to myself.

And I had a pretty good track record on these – particularly the latter, at least a piece of writing, some research, at least one action to further writing or publication of promotion each day.

Then life intruded. Nothing tragic. I have known grief, truly, so I hope this doesn’t sound trivial, but it was due to work imploding. Nothing I’d ‘done wrong’, but it crashed about me anyway. I fought back and maintained energy a while, but then needed all my resources simply to manage daily life.

So writing, after solid daily effort, had to take a back seat. For weeks I scarcely wrote anything, not in terms of creative writing. And it felt like losing the appetite, that nothing would tempt it back. So much for my goals then.

Can intense goal-setting kill creativity?

I did finally resume writing over Christmas, even finding the energy and enthusiasm to start something new. However, the goals have not yet followed. They may be back, and I hope they will; they helped. But for the time being, I am taking it easy on myself while I work on getting other life issues back on track. Taking an agile approach, writing when not only time but also mental and creative energy allow.

In the meantime, I have been considering when it may be useful not to set goals. This is when emotional and physical energy are exhausted – the day job, children, looking after parents, commuting, helping friends, perhaps illness… trying to hold to demanding goals will only stress you out if there’s too much going on.

And not everyone is an advocate of constant goal-setting. They can endanger spontaneity and experimentation – two things that creativity may benefit from. Certainly, the idea of setting goals without intent and ambition can leave one feeling a failure. Establishing too many goals at once also is to risk setting oneself up to fail, leaving you overwhelmed.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up on whatever you like doing, creativity, your hobby. Know that it’s still there, you can pick it up when you have the time and energy. Anything else can feel like a relationship of coercive control at times.


Images: 9110 Images via and breakingpic Pixabay

21 thoughts on “A goalless draw

  1. I agree with you, too much goal setting can set us up for failure. I believe in making daily habits for small improvements makes us better – so if you want to write, write 5 minutes a day if that is all the time you have. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point, maybe it’s a question sometimes of modifying goals than abandoning them. Thank you for reading.


  2. I love your article. Goals while gives a boast, overdoing demoralize at times. How about incremental goal with a shades of color for improving over time or how about being a free bird with no goals 🌸😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, having been free of the cage a while, if I may extend the metaphor, I’ll be easing myself back in gradually. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good for you. Stay blessed

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think there is nothing wrong at all with taking a complete break if you need to, it can’t do any harm for your mind to focus on different things and you are more likely to feel creative when you take up your pen again than you are to have lost the urge forever!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point – the writing is optional and should be pleasurable. It’s the old thing about risking breaking something if you bend it too far, I guess. Anyway, none of us, generally speaking, should feel guilty about broken or at least amended goals.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. that’s so true. I’m the type who’d accomplish absolutely nothing if i set goals and deadlines for myself, no mattter what i promise myself as reward. Stress is a major creativity killer for me, and setting goals for myself – with limits – will only stress me further. I can say ‘i’ll try to do this and that – within a reasonable timeframe, but inwardly i know i can bend and strech that line as much as i want to. But if i tell myself i have to write 5k words this week, i may never pass 100 words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting, there seems to be a lot of thinking that goals can sometimes do more harm than good, if they lead to inflexibility and create blog nd determination to meet the goal at the expense of seeing alternatives. I am wondering if having a creative vision is useful, but goals can have restrictions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. well, i can set a goal for myself, like – i’m going to have two books published this year – but if at the end neither pans out, i’ll be alright as long as i know the book’s still on the way. What i mean to say is that if there’s no pressure, goals don’t hinder my progress.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sounds like a great balance of aspirational vision and practical realism.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. ‘The day job, looking after parents, commuting, perhaps illness’ are all such a drain on spirits resources and time 😦 , but I guess that’s life as Esther so eloquently puts it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is, and it demands re-prioritization sometimes. Family and health will always be of fundamental importance.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely true! So well put!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. agreed…the golden rule is that there are no golden rules…rules are made for men, not men for rules…comforting post to read…thanks for writing it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great way of putting it, thanks for the perspective. Seems that goals are good servants, not masters.


      1. Thanks…well said…


  8. I’m actually setting goals chick. Or let’s say I live with a plan for each day on my wall & in my head 😂 otherwise I’ll just lie on my sofa watch movies day long 🙂 I don’t have kids, so my life is much simpler (probably)…
    Also I’m usually plan for 2 weeks ahead (but not long shots). I think breaks important. Sometimes I can DROP EVERYTHING & just be for a week. Then I feel – it’s time to get back, yo! Because suddenly writing is fun again…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know the feeling: without goals, the sofa and a book certainly look good. The idea of breaks thing is a good idea though. I think I used to be concerned the motivation would not return, but over time you learn that it does.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, this was usefull. Keep writing this kind of stories, you will get a lot of people to this post if you continue writing this. I will be visiting this post more often. thx


  10. Your opinion is a fresh look at an old issue. Thanks! I am sharing this!


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