Hold Aloft Your Lantern – How To Reject All Your Goals And Sculpt A Beautiful Creative Life

image: Amanda Richards

Creative goals are usually about completing specific projects by a specific time.

For example – “I want to finish the first draft of my new novel by the end of the year” or “I want to take a course in Ikebana and create my first six sculptures by the end of the summer”.

In our creative lives we can have any number of these goals, and though individually they might be worthwhile projects and landmarks, none of them compare to the single goal that surpasses all others.

This is the only creative goal any of us ever need.

In fact, it isn’t a goal at all, not in the traditional sense we defined above.

Our ultimate goal is not a place, or a destination we arrive at, but the state of mind and being we’re in as we travel.

It’s about the person we are, the artist we are, and how we’re creating our life.

To reach this state, all you need to do are two things.

1. Keep creating.

Create your heart work – the work that means most to you, the art that calls you desperately and urgently from deep within to be brought into the world.

2. With everything you create, indeed with everything you do, be mindful of this simple guiding lantern of a question:

Is what I’m doing right now supporting my creative life, and adding to my enjoyment and development as an artist, and as a person?

If the answer is yes, then keep doing it, and do more things like it.

Fill your life with them, immerse yourself in them. These are exactly what you need to be happily, creatively you.

If the answer is no, find ways of reducing this activity, or even better, eliminating it completely.

Do the same for other activities like it that don’t support and nurture your development as an artist, and a person. You don’t need them, they’re holding you back, they’re slowly killing your creativity.

By doing this, by keep creating, and holding this simple question aloft like a soft lantern in the thick black night to guide you, you’ll be living your ultimate creative goal – your best possible creative life. Only even better.

That’s as complicated as goals need to be.

What happens when you start asking this question, and following the light of your lantern, is you tend to find you need to stop being a painter and instead become a sculptor.

I’m not talking literally about your chosen art forms.

What I mean is when you start asking your guiding question, you’ll probably find you’ll answer “no” far more than “yes”.

By the time we wake up and realise where we are in our lives – and how far it is from where we want to be – we are not like a painter with a pure untainted white canvas and a perfect set of brushes, ready to make only the most beautiful, colourful and expressive brush strokes in the painting of our life.

Instead we are more like the sculptor with a huge hunk of granite.

We have this raw mass of solid stuff in front of us, all around us, staring us down and consuming us. The last thing we need to do is add more granite.

Instead we need to pare away all the excess – gently, steadily, determinedly chipping away at all the rock that covers what we really need and what really matters – so we can reveal only the beautiful sculpture that’s always been waiting there for us underneath.

As important as what we leave is what we remove. And so, sculptors we must become.

The sculpture itself of course is not a single project. It’s your creative life.

And when you use the “lantern question” is does cover your whole life, not just when you’re making art.

For example, if you’re eating a delicious, healthy home cooked meal with your family, and ask the question – “Is what I’m doing right now supporting my creative life ,and adding to my enjoyment and development as an artist, and as a person” – the answer is yes.

You’re providing your body with nutritious food, and you’re stimulating your senses of sight, taste, scent, touch. You’re engaged in an enjoyable, social, sensory activity that’s beneficial to your life on many levels.

Compare that to grabbing a fast food takeaway and ramming it down your throat it while you race to an appointment, already late, and I think the difference is more than obvious.

Taking a walk in nature to disconnect from daily stresses, writing a daily gratitude page, reading a range of books and articles, engaging with a creative community, spending time with family and good friends, are all examples of following the lantern and having in your life activities that are not in themselves about directly making art, but are all supportive of a creative and happy life.

They’re all big (creative) yeses.

Start to think about some of the daily activities in your life. Start asking the question. Start holding up the lantern.

Then put on your overalls, bravely take up your tools, and let the sculpting begin.

It’s not going to be a instant quick fix, or an overnight transformation, but the more you follow what matters to you and what supports your creative life, and the more you let go of those things that clutter and hinder it and hold you back, the more you’ll be living that ultimate goal.

Holding aloft your lantern while you sculpt your beautiful creative life is the only goal you’ll ever need.


Thank you for reading. Please share these words. Subscribe for free updates.

10 thoughts on “Hold Aloft Your Lantern – How To Reject All Your Goals And Sculpt A Beautiful Creative Life”

  1. I love this Dan – love it, love it, love it!!

    I love the way you describe our ultimate goal as being a state of mind – this is so true. Often our goals are associated with things, or doing things and yet the truth, as you say, is that the real goal is to find that state of ‘being’ – all things flow from there.

    I also loved the painter to sculptor analogy – and the ‘it’s what you remove that’s important’. This very much ties in with where I am right now – removing the unnecessary from my life to create more space for the necessary, including my creativity.

    Superb post – many thanks


    1. There’s so little we actually need to be at our most creative. That’s what we forget, and adding more only makes things more confusing.

      It might be a helpful exercise to imagine what would happen if we lost every physical possession we owned today. How would we start again? What would we need to start creating something meaningful? For most, it’s next to nothing. For me, my MacBook, iPod, a few clothes, a few books, that’s pretty much it.

      Thanks for stopping by Steve.


  2. Thank you for the inspirational words and insight. I will ask myself the lantern question daily–if not multiple times a day. What a terrific way to keep me focused on creating and centered on my purpose. Thank you.

    Amber E.


    1. Amber, it’s once you get to that point that you sound like you’re at – where you’re asking the question almost subconsciously, and letting it guide you – that’s when you’re really living your most creative life. Congratulations!


  3. Dan, This well-thought out article can also (and quite logically)apply to the concrete/ spatial aspect of creating, (SUPPLIES/EQUIPMENT/AARGH) which might concretely represent the negative space a sculptor is chiseling away. This summer, I’m releasing some supplies that I haven’t used in order to open up my workspace and to focus my resources on the art forms I really enjoy creating. I’m telling myself I can always “reacquire” supplies/equipment if I want to return to another medium/technique, and this is helping with the mental battles that accompany the purging of objects.
    Thanks for the reinforcement.


    1. I love that angle DJ. I’ve definitely found in my own evolution towards a simpler, more minimalist lifestyle in recent months and years, that as we simplify the physical stuff, it simplifies everything else. It is as if everything we have in a physical form has to have a corresponding space in our minds and emotions. So we end up with loads of stuff in our studios/homes and our heads become like cluttered, dusty old mansions. Not very conducive to new creating. Thanks as always for your thoughtful words and support.


  4. THANK you. This is clear, simple, focused, and I don’t have to break it down into a color-coded project management GANTT chart for my iGTD. Imagine that. I could find another use for my crayons. 🙂


    1. There’s always much to be said for keeping things simple Paula. Less opportunities for procrastination to sidetrack us with unnecessary frills! Thanks for reading and commenting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s