When setting goals, define your controllables

Top performers from all fields tend to follow the simple approach of identifying an aspect of their development that they can control, then pursuing it.

For example, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld wanted to create more funny material. Instead of creating a goal to “be funnier”, he set himself the challenge of writing jokes every day. This was under his control. In contrast, a goal such as “get new patrons every day” depends on the choices of others, which is much harder and can lead to frustration.

Here’s a short exercise to help you to come up with steps to get you where you want to go.


  1. Identify an aim for yourself, your team, or your creative project.
  2. Define your controllables. Create a list of 5-10 to of the most critical controllable process goals that are crucial for making progress toward your ultimate aim. Keeping in line with the stand-up comedian example, a comedian’s list might include:
  • Write down 10 new jokes per day.
  • Practice each written joke out loud and then re-write the best 5 jokes.
  • Tell these 5 rewritten jokes to a small audience to receive feedback.
  • Select the 3 most promising jokes and take notes for how you might modify them for the next time you tell them.
  1. Spell out how you will stick to completing each of your purpose/process goals.

If anyone wants to share their goal, I volunteer to be your accountability buddy and provide support along the way :slight_smile:


OMG, feeling this so much, thank you! I focus so much of my time on the things I have little/no control over :innocent:

Not sure I’ve done this right and would love your thoughts:

  1. Identify an aim for yourself, your team, or your creative project.
    1. get better at home recording
  2. Define your ‘controllables’. Create a list of 5-10 to of the most critical controllable process goals that are crucial for making progress toward your ultimate aim:
    • Complete ‘demo to pro’ online course
    • Record one song and work on releasing a new mix every week
    • Get feedback each week on Patreon
    • Choose the best version and focus on production
    • Pre-release on Patreon every month
    • repeat above process every month :yum:
  3. Spell out how you will stick to completing each of your purpose/process goals.
    1. Remain accountable with support from patrons on Patreon
    2. Privately livestream recording sessions to patrons

Not sure I understood this very well :sweat_smile:


That looks great @natemaingard! Thanks for sharing.

Seeing as you wrote this 5 days ago, how has your progress been going?


absolutely no progress at all :sweat_smile:

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No worries at all. Is there one action you can take tomorrow that would get you a step closer to hitting one of your goals? Even if it’s something simple, like research a demo to pro online course.

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I think for now I’m gonna stay focused on the relaunch I’ve been working on for a while. This concept will definitely be of service when I’m ready to get moving on creating again. Thanks again for sharing it :gift_heart:


This is a great tip. It reminds me of some advice from Kevin Crawford to small publishers; he argued that small-time creators really need to identify what they’re best at and try to find a way to do mostly that.

In his specific case, he was encouraging small-time writers to use print-on-demand services rather than having to learn how to get an offset print run organized, figuring out shipping logistics, warehousing, etc. If your writing is what’s awesome about what you do, all the time you pour into become a mediocre publisher is time you’re not being awesome at writing, and it dilutes you.

I went against his advice (and I would probably do it again!) but it certainly has shown up as a pronounced effect in my Patreon output. I normally put out ten major pieces of content a year, and in the 13 months since Kickstarting my book, I’ve only managed to put out two! All the rest of my creative time has gone into logistics, customer service, managing a storefront, publishing stretch goals, all things that aren’t my strong suits.

I think this warning applies to creators who (for example) excel at making videos, but are thinking of getting into merchandise. It looks like easy money, but if you’re diversifying out of your skill set and pouring precious creating time into figuring out a storefront so you can sell t-shirts to eleven people, you can wind up way behind.


Also, I’m not sure I understand this :rofl: :فرح: But I promise to try this on the ground :غمزة:

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I really like this plan and appreciate the offer of accountability! The general aim I have right now is to create more often. New creations attract more attention (as opposed to promoting the same old pieces over and over), so I feel like I could build my audience that way. I am still a full-time university student, so I’ve been experimenting with things that work with a heavy academic load, not just time-wise but also in terms of my personal interest. Recently I thought up a funny idea that shouldn’t require too much time but would also be visually interesting and could even be the basis for a body of work. At the very least, I’d like to make this my project for July and see how it goes.

The premise is this: I choose a photo of one of my pets in a weird position and then draw only my pet, without the context of the environment to explain why or how my dog or cat is shaped like that. Pets out of Context is what I’m thinking of calling the project. I think it’ll be valuable in multiple ways, giving me practice drawing animals, providing fun content for my online presence, and even creating a special reward for my Patrons, since I plan on Patreon being the only place where one can see the original photo from which the drawing was made. Furthermore, if this project is popular with my audience, I could eventually capitalize on it in multiple ways (merchandise, gallery shows, custom orders, etc.).

  • Choose a photo from which to draw.
  • Draw the pet out of context.
  • Save a lines-only version and photo-included version.
  • Post the lines-only version on my social media.
  • Post both versions on Patreon.
  • Make a summary blog post including all that week’s lines-only drawings at the end of each week.

I run a writer-illustrator guild on Habitica and create a new project challenge every month so I’ll use that challenge to set up reminders to create these drawings every workday (I take weekends off). I’ll make completing these drawings a priority, first thing in the morning, so that I don’t put it off until the last minute.

That’s my plan for now! If anyone has any suggestions to make it more achievable, please let me know (^^) I thrive on outside expectation so feel free to ask me about my progress at any time :sparkles: