photo of two women playing violins“Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference.”
–Benjamin Zander, conductor
The Musician’s Way, p. 305

One of the most powerful ways that we can make a difference in life is to do creative work.

Still, unless we choose our aims wisely, we can feel overwhelmed or under-motivated, and then we won’t create.

How can we discern goals that impel us to act?

Goals that Unleash Creativity

I’ve developed a straightforward way to sift out goals that unleash creativity.

These types of aims, which I term Double-A Goals, meet two criteria: they’re Authentic and Attainable.

Authentic creative goals grow out of our values and passions.
Attainable goals concentrate our authentic interests on manageable tasks.

Identifying Double-A Goals

The following exercise will help you identify Double-A Goals that you can tackle right away.

Part I: Title a page in a notebook Goals, and then create two columns respectively headed Authentic and Attainable.

  1. Under Authentic, note a general category that captures your creative passion; your category might be headed, “compose,” “write songs,” “improve my playing/singing,” “broaden my repertoire,” etc. If you have more than one category in mind, note each on a separate page. Write freely, trusting your instincts.
  2. Beneath a category, list broad subcategories that represent the kinds of objectives you’d like to achieve.
    •  A performer looking to expand her repertoire might list several genres or composer’s names.
    •  A musician seeking to compose might jot down things like string quartet, jazz trio, violin duo, piano solo.
    •  An aspiring songwriter might note appealing song styles.
  3. Under the Attainable heading, enter 1 or 2 of the most attainable subcategories from the Authentic column; if you have more than one entry, leave vertical space between them.
  4. Beneath an entry, list one or more ideas for creative projects that you could accomplish at home in 5 days, working for about 30 minutes per day.
    •  The performer intending to enlarge her repertoire might select one composer’s name as a heading and then list 2-3 easy pieces by that artist.
    •  A budding composer might head a column with piano solo and then pen thoughts such as student-level piece; folksong arrangement.
    •  A novice songwriter could opt for a familiar style and then note concepts for songs, e.g., first draft of a love ballad with 3 verses and a chorus.

One Double-A Goal: Take Action

Part II: Title a new page of your notebook Goal One followed by today’s date.

  • Select one or more 5-day goals from the Attainable column and align them as headings across the top of the page; make columns if you have more than one heading.
    1. Beneath a heading, enter specific aims that you could complete in the 5-day/30-minutes-per-day timeframe.
      •   The abovementioned performer might head columns with the titles of pieces and then plot learning strategies.
      •   A composer keen to write a student-level piano piece might note waltz with long base notes & 1-octave melody.The Musician's Way book cover
      •   A songwriter aiming to craft a love ballad could consider different points of view that the song might take.
    2. When you have ample ideas listed, stop and identify the ones that seem most magnetic:
      •   Do they serve your authentic mission?
      •   Are they realistically attainable in 2.5 hours or less?
      •   Do they have a welcoming ring?
    3. Now you choose: circle the one goal that feels the most authentic and attainable.
    4. Next, set aside five 30-minute timeslots to work on your project, and dive in!

For more about realizing your creative goals, see The Musician’s Way.

Related posts
Artistic Vision
Getting Started
How Not to Be Creative
Stoking Motivation
Ten Tips for Ongoing Creativity

© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © VILevi, licensed from