How to set goals when you right brained (and suck at reaching them)

About two weeks ago, I (once again) decided that I was gonna write my goals down and tick them off. One by one. Like a mean green goal-killing machine!

Enough is enough, now is the time!

I had stumbled upon a video on Youtube on how to ”write down all your goals and get them done!”. There’s a lot of those videos out there, pretty much all of them preaches the same ritual.

Spend some time brainstorming what you want to accomplish in your personal life, relationships, career, fitness and so on. Write them all down.

Then sort these goals into one-year, three-year and million-year goals, depending on how fast you think you should be able to achieve them.

Now, divide each of your goals into smaller, manageable chunks. What to do every month. And then every week. Then every day.

Then just follow the list with everything you need to do every day and all the good things will happen!

Hmm, really? It is that simple?

After actually (whyyy?) following these steps, a completely overwhelming sensation washed over my entire body. I started to breathe faster and suddenly my brain was doing a thousand miles per hour and going in every direction at once.

I literally slammed my notebook shut and pushed it away, my eyes staring blankly in front of me. 

I even went over to the couch, fired up my meditation app on the phone and went through the ”Feeling Overwhelmed” session. It kinda calmed me down. A bit.

Once again this ”bulletproof way of reaching my goals” failed me. This time before I even had the time to forget about that list of goals and leave the notebook in a drawer to rot.

What am I doing wrong? How can so many people be doing this exact technique and succeed? What am I doing wrong?

It turned out, it’s nothing wrong with me. I have just been using the wrong tools.

Up until very recently, the common belief was that you are either a right-brained or a left-brained person, i.e. one side of your brain as ”stronger” than the other, in the same way as you are either left or right-handed.

We believed that different hemispheres of the brain were housing different traits and giving your person different characteristics depending on which side was the stronger one.

Being left-brained meant you are very pragmatic, great at organizing stuff and getting them done. You are good at focusing like a laser on one specific thing for a long time.

Being right-brained on the other hand, you are creative and artistic. You are able to step back and see the big picture. You have strong intuition and feelings.

A few years back though, a couple of scientists manage to prove (after a huge study with 1000 people conducted during several years) that there’s absolutely no correlation between the traits mentioned above and one side of your brain. The brain works as one unit, even if different parts light up during different tasks.

But never the less, people are different. Some of us are great at focusing one specific task for a longer time, getting things done quickly. CEOs and other business leaders usually fall into this segment. They are the productive people (previously known as left-brainers).

Then we have people somewhere closer to the other side of the scale. People like you and me that loves to create. We have a thousand ideas and projects that will change the world. There’s not enough time to do finish all of them. And maaybe, sometimes it is hard to get things done?

Being right or left-brained is a myth, but being somewhere along the productive/creative scale is a reality.

Here’s the good thing about all of this. 

Having a creative mind means having a creative heart. And whereas the mind is very fond of structuring stuff and making everything very concise and clear, the creative heart loves to dream big.

To come up with projects that help people, pieces of art that will change the world, that will make a difference.

The creative heart makes stuff up and then continues to expand and develop that idea as long as you let it. It sits there while you are going about your day, and it will collect all these different ideas, impressions and thought and find a way to fit them into that big, beautiful idea.

There are no limits, no box to think within, everything is possible.

The creative heart (and person) is not driven by means to an end (aka smaller, tangible goals), but the end-result itself. The feeling and vision of what that particular project will change or add to the world and its people.

This far, all good.

But now, your brain wants in on the fun. And the brain is all logic and no play. It is all about concretizing and making it tangible. Find a box juuuust big enough and put the things in there.

Those on the productive side of the spectra – the CEOs, the accountants, the factory workers – get a kick out of ticking off concise lists of goals. They might thrive just by the feeling of being productive and efficient. The goals are enough to keep them going forward, to keep them on track.

But not you and I. We, the creatives, are driven by the outcome – the end result. We need to remember – and visualize – our WHY. The reason for creating in the first place, the change that what we create will make.

I’ve realized that the reason why setting goals the regular way isn’t working for me is that whenever I do, I remove my incentive. I lose the moving force that keeps me wanting to continue.

Whenever I felt empowered by an idea, I wanted to do everything I could to make it happen. Today. Shoot it out of a canon.

I always thought there was only one option, one way to do stuff. So I wrote the whole path down as smaller, concrete goals. And focused on that list of check-boxes, focusing on completing each point, one by one. Because according to the entire internet, that is how you become “productive and get things done”.

But when the first creative boost had withered, it wasn’t as fun anymore. The drive was gone.

I had lost the initial grand vision that would change the world. Now, I was just looking at bullet-points on a piece of paper. And I didn’t see how they could possibly make the world a better place.

And somewhere deep inside me, my creative heart was crying, because I had taken her beautiful and colorful vision and made it into something small and emotionless. I took the what, without also taking the why.

I don’t want to be productive first and foremost, I want to find a way to give my creativity the entire field to play on, and then help her put all those creations into the world for you to see.

I think I am on to something here…

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Jens Lennartsson
Written by
Jens Lennartsson

I want more people to create and become more fulfilled persons. I’m an artist and storyteller, living in Sweden. Most comfortable in my 1973 Mercedes camper van.

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