How to Apply Creativity in Goal Setting

April 14, 2022 by Lauren Gombas

Creativity isn't simply something to leverage during our downtime. It is an essential piece of any industry and can profoundly impact many business outcomes. Let's start by looking at a quick example. 

Fatima, the lead engineer of a robotics company, has a big presentation in two hours. She and her team have invented a companion robot for kids with autism and older adults in nursing homes. This robot will help caregivers better address the needs of those they serve by alerting caregivers to certain physiological changes in the patient’s body. During this big presentation, Fatima must present her team’s robot to the rest of the company before getting approval to share the idea with key stakeholders. Currently, Fatima’s goal is to create a presentation that will win the approval of the company, so they can move forward to the key stakeholders.

Fatima values the insights of her team and calls a meeting to discuss various ways to successfully present the necessary information. Together, they create three lists. One list includes all of the data collected from successful tests to showcase the effectiveness of the robot. The second list includes information on needed improvements to demonstrate the team’s adaptability. The final list includes information on real-world applications. Fatima and her team spend a few hours in creative brainstorming sessions over the next week discussing each of these lists in detail to develop the strongest possible way to present all of the data.

How to Apply Creativity in Goal Setting

Fatima’s team is no stranger to this kind of brainstorming. This creative process allows Fatima’s team to remain open to all suggestions and explore multiple results, yielding stronger ideas. This is one of many creative processes that assists in the process of setting goals. 

The Creative Approach to Goal Setting

One major trap we fall into when it comes to goal setting and creation is assuming that the answer is consistently at the forefront of our minds. In Fatima's brainstorming exercise, the ideation process forced Fatima to open up to the unknown experience: she won't know how she will succinctly communicate and pitch her ideas until after she's finished. 

A client and coach can do the same when discussing goals, plans, and adaptability. In Wired to Create, Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregorie note that the personality trait most associated with high creative achievement is openness to experience, even more than IQ and divergent thinking. Fatima's openness to experience is one of the keys to her ability to successfully manage a team, whereas others in the same line of work who do not have this same openness may struggle to effectively manage their team and design creative approaches to problems that arise. 

Another key is Fatima's formation of systems to support goal setting. For example, every Monday and Wednesday, Fatima meets with her team to discuss the status of everyone’s projects. This includes any successes and new ideas they'd like to pursue. She also makes time for one-on-one meetings with each team member and gives them the option to meet. Making time for collaboration helps the team brainstorm ideas together because, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one. 

Creative Ways to Approach Goal Setting

Like anyone else, Fatima sometimes finds herself frustrated with working toward her goals, yet she realizes that goals are tools rather than markers of success. So if she doesn't adhere to her systems perfectly every day, she doesn't beat herself up. 

Instead, she opens herself up to the opportunities of who she could be and uses this as fuel to get back on track. Although Fatima found a way to create great systems, it’s no easy task. People who struggle with systems and goal-setting may need additional resources. Imaginative Play, Mindfulness, and Solitude are three practices Wired to Create mentions to help people cultivate new systems. 

Imaginative Play

Imaginative Play isn't just for kids. It can help us roleplay to develop new ideas, open our thoughts to possibilities we hadn’t previously considered, and identify systems to help us achieve our goals. The major link between all of these functions is storytelling. In this case, it is the stories we tell ourselves about our circumstances or the world around us that either help us achieve our goals or leave us feeling unaccomplished. 

Research shows that storytelling is a basic and essential part of human nature. In fact, the same neuro system that supports the need for stories is the same neuro system that keeps humans alive: Creative people use this to their advantage. 

Role-play a Conversation With the Future Self  Exercise

To take advantage of storytelling, clients can imagine and participate in a conversation with their future selves. Before implementing this exercise, it’s essential to develop a clear vision of their future selves. This discussion should help identify who they want to become and the gaps to get there. Clients will have a better idea of the systems and habits they need to achieve their ideal selves by doing this. 

The initial Future Self conversation is crucial as it helps the client identify the basics. They can identify their Future Self’s personality, occupation, geographic location, desires, and achieved goals. These topics form the basis for future conversations with a client’s Future Self, such as conversations around building systems and identifying new goals. For example, the client may ask their Future Self how well their current systems are working and what the client might need to tweak to make those systems more effective. Additionally, the client may ask their Future Self what goals need refinement. Here, positively envisioning the future makes it easier to manifest and allows the client to work around roadblocks before they occur. 

Mindfulness & Goal Setting 

What are the fundamental questions when setting goals? Mindfulness allows your client to slow down and think about what they value. By remaining focused on a clients’ values, they can begin to make connections between their values and their future goals. As mentioned in previous blogs, coaching is a Mindfulness practice, and it is the role of the coach to help their client connect values to future goals. 

This mindful practice will yield one of two results. One, the client will realize that there is a lack of a connection between their values and their goals. This can be a scary realization for a client, especially if they were particularly attached to a goal. In this case, the coach should work with the client to identify goals that are connected to their values. 

Two, the client will realize that there is a connection between their values and their goals. In this case, the coach should work toward strengthening this connection between values and goals to make the client more likely to follow-through on action plans. 

There are several ways to help a client be more mindful about their goals. The first is through a strong coaching session. However, helping a client be more mindful about their goals can be done outside of a session, through activities such as journaling to process thoughts and emotions or creating vision boards that include both the goals and the values they represent. 

Solitude & Goal Setting 

Solitude may seem like the most unlikely pairing with goal setting. However, Solitude is the opportunity to get critical work done (example: re-examining goals), move away from distractions, and refocus on the goals that matter most. Solitude is not the lack of companionship, but being present with ourselves - and enjoying that alone time. In doing so, we not only think more clearly, but we learn more deeply about who we are and who we want to become.

Let’s say you have a client who wants to become healthier in mind, body, and spirit. During the past few weeks, they sat down with their coach to discuss setting up systems for managing their stress, such as an exercise routine. The client might block out the weekend to spend time alone and focus on their health. If it's too distracting to be at home (maybe all they can see is the work they need to do), they can take some time to be alone with their thoughts in a cabin or somewhere in a quiet corner, like a library. They could pull out a journal and create a stream of consciousness to assess progress. Exercises like these may help this client bring forth new ideas for rewriting goals. 

Whether you are a coach or a client, Solitude is a great opportunity to reevaluate your goals.

Moving Forward

Creative people make smart goals by being open to experiences and using Imaginative Play, Mindfulness, and Solitude tools, among others. They realize that staying focused on their goals depends on thinking about who they want to be and which systems they need to put into place. Throughout the goal-setting process, both the client and the coach need to approach exercises, progress, and goal creation with a sense of openness, fun, and restraint from judgment.

Works Cited

“Forget about Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.” James Clear, 4 Feb. 2020, https://jamesclear.com/goals-systems. 

Kaufman, Scott Barry, and Carolyn Gregoire. “6. Openness to Experience .” Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, Ebury Digital, London, 2016. 

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