The Nature Of Setting Goals

Chris Lonsberry Media Chris Lonsberry Media

The CLM Blog: Photography, Business and Meanderings

Since I love photography, like to write and am actively engaged in growing a business, a blog seems like it should be a thing.

The Nature Of Setting Goals - Apr 13, 2022
The Nature Of Setting Goals - Apr 13, 2022

I want to talk about setting goals. It's more of a question than offering a solution as though I'm an expert. So I'm interested in hearing what other people think, how they approach setting goals and, maybe, I can give someone else some food for thought. And while, in this case, it pertains to photography, I think the idea is true regardless of your endeavor.

I was talking to Joe Edelman and it came up that I got my Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) certification because I could. It was a challenge. No one has ever asked me if I was certified when they came to shoot. Contrary to what the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) might say, it's never been a selling point. And I knew that going in. I knew a lot of the material already and it was just a challenge.. a goal. I guess I'm naturally goal-oriented as a personality type. (Side note: I think I have to re-certify this year and I'm probably not going to. Not that I think it was bad but.. crossed that bridge. Scaled that mountain. Moving on.)

I was looking at a post on Facebook the other day and it started with "What Are Your Photography Goals for 2022?". Obviously, we're pretty well into the year. We're not talking about New Years resolutions here. But, if they're really goals for the year, they are something that are there for the whole year. Not just on New Years Eve if/when you've been drinking.

As I browsed through other peoples' responses, I was struck by how vague they were:

  • I want to be better at __________
  • I want to become an expert with ________
  • etc

Almost all of the responses were worthy goals but somewhat unmeasurable... vague. I mean, we all want to be better at ________ but what defines "better"?

I set about putting down specific and measurable goals:

  • I want to double what I made last year on photography. (That may sound greedy unless you know that, as a fairly new business, I took a loss last year. This year, I want to be profitable, even if it's by a dollar.)
  • I want to go hang out with one of my favorite headshot photographers in Hollywood AND I want the business to pay for the trip. (You should check out her work. She's amazing!
  • I want to get a method and rhythm to bringing in corporate business. And I want to do at least 6 corporate shoots this year.
  • I want to take a trip to Joshua Tree and shoot... preferably with living subjects.. AND I want the business to pay for the trip.
  • I want to finally get Peter Hurley to sign off on me being an Associate headshot photographer this year. The sooner, the better.)

Very definable goals. Easy to measure the outcome. You either do it. Or you don't. Of COURSE I have those general goals..

  • I want to be the best headshot photographer in the Southeast... or the East.
  • I want to build my skills as a commercial fashion photographer.
  • I want to have a gallery showing. I don't care what it's about or what it looks like or what style of photography it is. I just want it. That's kind of a new goal of mine. A wild hair. Before I die (someday), I want a gallery showing. (To be honest, it's SUCH a lofty goal, I don't even know what it looks like yet or how to get there But I want it... because it's there.)
  • I want to get better at... pretty much everything.

.. but how do you measure those to know if you've reached that goal or not? I mean, "getting better" is almost an endless task. We always want to "get bettter" so when does it end? On the same token, we should be better tomorrow than we are today so.. that should be an easy one to sign off on. One day. Done! They are almost a superset of the goals above. If I accomplish the specific things, I will certainly be closer to accomplishing the broader things.

It would seem that many (most?) of us tend to set broad, non-specific goals. I am very much included. Perhaps.. and this is just a thought.. we do that to protect ourselves from not having to be accountable. When I was riding the motorcyce a lot, I had rides planned out early every year. I want to go here. And I want to go here. And then I can go here. But at the end of every year, there were places I just didn't make and it was a disappointment regardless of the places I did go. Those.. were "FAILS". And maybe keeping our goals unmeasurable and vague helps us avoid those disappointments.

There's an idea out there that A SMART goal is used to help guide goal setting. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Therefore, a SMART goal incorporates all of these criteria to help focus your efforts and increase the chances of achieving your goal.

The idea is that goals should be:

  • Specific: Well defined, clear, and unambiguous
  • Measurable: With specific criteria that measure your progress toward the accomplishment of the goal
  • Achievable: Attainable (not impossible to achieve)
  • Realistic: Within reach and realistic
  • Timely: With a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date. This is to create a sense of urgency.

I don't know. I don't have the answers. But I DO think it's crucial to have goals of some sort in whatever you're doing. If I'm hungry, my goal is to eat. If I have to go to the bathroom, my goal is to get there in time. A lot of motivational speakers talk about knowing your "Why". Goals are the intertwined roadmaps that are powered by our "why". Goals are part of every aspect of business/life and provide a sense of direction, motivation, a clear focus, and clarify importance. By setting goals, you are providing yourself with a target to aim for. (Another goal I have is to set better goals.)

But as I started out saying, I don't have the answers. These are just my thoughts.. today. What do you think? How do you approach your goals? Are you specific? Are your goals general? Do you have a timeline for them?

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