Set Your Goals for the Lifestyle You Want

By Carolyn Edlund

Prioritize your life over your work, and everything for your art business will fall into place.


Artist holding watercolor paint set

I’ve been working with an artist lately who is doing a lot of big vision planning and goal setting. Today I received a long email from her. This one sentence jumped out at me:

I am fortunate to be able to afford to grow my business slowly, with attention paid to the lifestyle I am creating for myself as an artist. 

This artist is working smart, because first she envisions what she wants her life to be like.

  • How does she want to live?
  • Does she want to travel?
  • What if she only wants to work only twenty hours a week?
  • Does she want to live in a certain part of the country, or the world?
  • What else is equally important to her – family, healthy living, a cause that she supports?

Deciding how you want to live, rather than just deciding how you want to work, is essential to making your plans successful in the long run, and making yourself happy while you are doing it.

Years ago, I didn’t do this type of planning when I started my own studio business. My biggest assets were that I didn’t think I could fail, and that I was relentless at pursuing sales.

But I overbooked with the goal of maximizing sales, and ended up traveling a lot when my children were small, doing far too many shows. I ended up feeling burned out and unhappy.

Even though I was doing what I loved, my life didn’t reflect that. It was hectic, overwhelming and burdensome. I earned more money that year than I ever had, but it wasn’t worth it.

So I ended up making drastic changes in my business to get my life back into balance. I needed to learn that lesson. Success doesn’t have a dollar figure on it. Hard work is important, but at what cost?

What if I had started with the big vision, as my current client does, of the lifestyle I wanted to live? What if I had known to put that first?

Think about your own priorities. What choices do you consider most important? What does success look like to you?


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  1. Such great advice, Carolyn. During the last week of each year, I write a vision of where I want to end up at the end of the following year. It’s not just about sales or accomplishments, but how I want/expect to feel about my life. At the same time I read what I wrote the previous year and ask myself if I fulfilled my vision. It’s a great way to check in with yourself and commit to changes that will get you back on track.

  2. i agree fully with you…you have to get the big picture down first, then you know how to proceed. that’s how i finally made the decision to focus on my graphite drawings and stick with nature and animal drawings, as i want to own a small farm in Montana in about 5 years, once my kids are in college and doing well on their own. i was inspired by jon katz’s blog, and have been taking slow progressive steps to create a similar life, but as an artist.

  3. This is so true. Many people have monetary success which comes at the price of an empty soul. I too do Sue’s idea at the end of the year to focus on where I want to be the following year. I try and then focus the list down to one or two words which will help me aim in this direction. It really helps.

    • Helen, Love that you are boiling this down to one or two words as motivation. This is such a great way to focus, and understand whether you are accomplishing your big goals!

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