Instead of Big Goals, Try Small Experiments

Instead of Big Goals, Try Small Experiments

If you tend to start big dreams, ambitious goals or new projects and resolutions and then peter out, here’s something to try that can be a whole lot more fun and fulfilling.

I’m a big dreamer. I love working and playing towards grand visions and big dreams for my life.

I’m a Sagittarian, so my arrow is always aimed at some distant target. I feel energized by having big visions to guide my life. Bold, outrageous dreams inspire me. And I’ve realized some amazing dreams in my life.

But I’m also a huge fan of small experiments and bite-sized intentions or goals.

I love these for (at least) two reasons:

  • Bite-sized goals are the best way to have huge dreams actually come true.
  • Small experiments allow me to try on and accomplish things over a short period of time and to learn valuable new information.

New Moon Intentions and 30-Day Goals

I love playing with New Moon Intentions or 30-Day Goals. These are a great way to conduct small experiments and divide big dreams into do-able steps.

New moon by Nousnou Iwasaki

The cycle of a month or moon cycle is a perfect length for many experiments, intentions and small projects. It’s long enough to try something on or complete a small project, but short enough to keep your attention on it and see the end in sight.

Some of my students prefer 30-day goals, because it’s easier for them to track things by the month, starting a new goal, experiment or intention on the first of the month.

I prefer to start on the new moon because I like to align myself with the natural rhythms of the universe, to be connected to and supported by these rhythms. The new moon is an excellent time for undertaking new projects, as people have known for centuries.

Find out more about drawing on the power of the moon (and 30-day goals too!) here.

At the new moon I tune into my heart and soul and see what naturally arises as calling for my attention, what inspires me, what I’m longing for or drawn to, and/or what has the most energy right now. I trust what comes.

Sometimes it’s a concrete goal like sending poems to five magazines or getting my taxes done. Sometimes it’s an intention like cultivating gratitude and appreciation. A good small experiment is specific, clear and do-able: for example, playing my violin for ten minutes a day five days a week.

Smaller (and Slightly Larger) Experiments 

Some creative experiments lend themselves to even shorter or slightly longer time frames.

You may decide to do something every day for one week. Or you may commit to a program for three months.

Regardless of the length of the experiment, the process is essentially the same.

How To Conduct Your Small Experiments

Aiming at the target

by Annie Spratt, Unsplash

To play with a new goal, intention or small experiment, there are a few simple steps to follow:

  1. Name it clearly in a single sentence as an “I” statement. Here’s a recent example of one of mine “I complete my vision-mapping for the new year, guided by sacred wisdom and heart.” It helps if the language is inviting and compelling to you. Also be clear on the time frame of your experiment, when it starts and ends.
  2. Write it down and post it where you’ll see it daily.
  3. Commit to it 100%.
  4. Read your statement daily.
  5. Take steps toward it daily or weekly.
  6. Track the steps you take by marking it off on a calendar, keeping a log or giving yourself stickers. You could get yourself a cool Steal Like an Artist wall calendar here.
  7. At the end of the time frame, celebrate and reflect on how it went, so you can learn, honor and grow.

Read more about cultivating a new healthy habit in 30 days here.

What’s So Great About Small Experiments?

Small experiments are energizing and can be fun. You get to see real progress.

You also don’t feel trapped into doing something for the rest of your life, which is often a recipe for failure because it’s too daunting.

Small experiments are more honest and do-able. They pique my curiosity without feeling overwhelming. They empower me to try things on that I might not do otherwise.

Pretend You Are a Scientist

I like to approach small experiments with the attitude of a curious scientist.

I take the approach that it is truly an experiment. I’m learning. I am free to stop at the end of the agreed-upon time period, but I commit to conducting the experiment fully until then.

And I track my results in some way.

One Small Experiment I Tried

A few months ago I decided to experiment with doing the Tibetan Five Rites. These are a set of fairly simple exercises that build flexibility and core strength. They are said to promote longevity, youthfulness and health. In fact, the claims made about the benefits of doing these exercises daily are huge.

I had dabbled with doing these exercises off and on for years, but I was never consistent. At the best times I would do them a few times a week. I never noticed any noteworthy changes.

So, I decided to conduct a small experiment. The book about these rites claims that many people see marked changes after doing these exercises for just one month. I committed to doing them every day for a month.

Here’s What Happened

When I started out I had huge resistance to doing the exercises. I had to push myself to start them every day. I didn’t like doing them while I was doing them either. They felt hard and not fun. The first exercise, which involves spinning, made me dizzy and nauseous.

But I figured the resistance would diminish as I did them daily. It didn’t. It never got easier or more enjoyable.

I managed to do them 24 of the 30 days. One day I was traveling all day. A couple days I forgot. I probably just flaked the other 3 days. But 24 out of 30 is pretty good.

The striking thing was: There were no noticeable change in health or youthfulness, nor in enjoyment nor ease of doing the exercises.

What I Learned

These exercises aren’t for me.

It was a great relief to discover this. I’d always felt bad about not doing them more. Now I know I’m not missing out. I like to do sun salutations and other yoga. I love to dance and take walks. And these all give me great benefits.

I also learned that it was hard to be flawless with doing exercise every single day for 30 days, so the following month my small experiment was…

25 walks in 30 days

woman walking in wilds

by Michelle Spencer, Unsplash

I was thrilled from the moment I set this intention. I loved doing it, even when I had to squeeze in a 10-minute walk in the dark at the end of the day.

I hope this inspires you to try your own small experiments. They can be in any area of your life—creativity, relationships, health, home, etc.

What small experiment will you take on for the next 30 days?

Share in the comments below to give it extra power.

If you need help figuring out a good small experiment, post in the comments below what it is you are wanting to focus on, cultivate or do. I will give you a suggestion of a good small experiment to try.

To your fun and fulfilling life,


The Power of Creative Routines Part 1

The Power of Creative Routines Part 1

Today I share with you the first of a series of posts on The Power of Creative Routines to support you in your creativity and in actually living your dreams.

This is something most, if not all, professional artists know. And it can be the dividing point between those who realize their dreams and those who don’t. So read on!

[Other news: I have space in my schedule for a few more Creativity Coaching & Mentoring folks. If you find yourself struggling to fulfill your life dreams… If you want abundant creativity, fulfillment and freedom in your life… If you are frustrated, stuck and tired of going it alone… contact me here to set up a free Discovery Session.]

The Power of Routines Part 1


photo by Alex Jones

There’s a popular notion that a new habit can be formed in 21 days. A simple habit, like taking a vitamin pill each morning, can happen in as little as 21 days. But, studies show that anything more involved, like cultivating a new exercise regime or, say, a regular creative practice, takes more than 84 days to become habitual. 84 days was the length of one of the studies.

My own experience working with people for many years to cultivate healthy creative habits bears this out.

People often ask me why The Artist’s Way course that I teach is 90 days long. They want the quick fix, less commitment. But, in my experience, 90 days is the shortest possible time to form life-long habits and perspectives that nourish and sustain a happy, healthy creative life. Most of us need six months or more for those new practices and ways of being to become truly habitual.

Habits Are Automatic

Woman drinking coffee early morning

by Benjamin Combs

A new activity, way of thinking or being becomes a habit when it becomes automatic. That means you don’t question each time whether or not you are going to do it. You just do it. And there’s very little friction or resistance, very little wear and tear.

For many people brushing your teeth is a habit. You do it daily without thinking. You don’t fight with yourself over whether you are going to do it or not.

Writing is like this for me. I have studio time at certain times of the week, and I just show up without question and begin. In fact, I can’t wait to get into my studio, even when the work is hard. Part of why this works so well for me is because I have ways to enter into the work, but that’s a topic for another day.

Why Bother Forming Creative Routines?

writer's desk

by Dustin Lee

Forming habits and routines that nourish and sustain your creativity and your life dreams helps you stop being constantly at war with yourself over trying to get yourself to create, or judging everything you create, or unhappy about what you are or are not producing.

Instead you create a life in which you feel that eagerness, the playful delight, the curiosity, the wonder and the inspired flow of creating, and you are able to tap into that regularly. You feel alive and aligned with yourself. You’re doing what you love and making it a central part of your life. And that feels good.

Without Habits, Resistance Wins

For many people, making art is not a habit, so it comes and goes, if it happens at all. If you plan on doing it, part of you tries to weasel out of it or distracts you with a million other things to do first. Most of the time that part of you wins.

When you think about making art, you may dread it, argue with yourself about it, or simply avoid it. Then you feel frustrated with yourself and think you are lacking some fundamental quality required to sustain a creative life.

To support and sustain yourself in living the life you dream of, in following your heart’s dreams and desires, the way becomes much easier and more enjoyable when you put positive, supportive habits into place.

Creative Routines Feel Good


by Luis Davila

The good news is that the habits that support a creative life are generally enjoyable and fulfilling. And the relief you get from not fighting yourself anymore and actually doing what you love and long to do is huge. You also free up a lot of energy.

But first you have to make your creative practices into a habit, a regular routine. They need to become embedded in your daily life. Then you start reaping big rewards.

But I Hate Routines!

Many artists or creative types are averse to routines. They love spontaneity and don’t want to be tied down. But, without any structure or habits, they often find themselves at sea in their creative lives. Either they don’t know what to focus on creatively, so they don’t begin or fritter the time away, or they simply do not making any time to do the things they love.

Many artists resist routines because they don’t know how to create routines that actually work for them and their lifestyle and personality.

They also don’t know how to foster routines in a loving way. Instead they summon the Inner Taskmaster, who tries to bully them into keeping routines, and then they resist and rebel. They find themselves locked in an endless war within.

So, they try and fail and become convinced that routines don’t work for them. Meanwhile, life continues to feel unruly and chaotic, and they don’t make much progress toward their big life dreams.

If you develop routines and rituals that feel good to you and that make doing what you love and following your dreams a part of your daily life, you’ll soon find you have a life you really love.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how to start fostering creative routines that work for you. We’ll look at the kinds of routines and support that foster a flourishing creative life and help you realize your heart’s big dreams.

Until then, may you flourish in your creativity and in your life,




P.S. How do you feel about creative routines? What gets in the way of sticking to them?
Post your comment here and I’ll respond.

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The Power of Ritual: Tending Your Creative Fire, Part 1

The Power of Ritual: Tending Your Creative Fire, Part 1

[This post in the first in a two-part series on Tending Your Creative Fire and getting started creating.]

Getting started with creative activity is the very hardest part.

We say we want to write, paint, sculpt, make films, sing, but when it comes to actually doing it, we procrastinate and distract ourselves endlessly, never seeming to get around to it.

And thus, another day goes by when we aren’t living our dreams. We beat ourselves up about it, but that doesn’t do any good.

So how do you get yourself to actually sit down at the piano or your desk, enter your studio, stand at your easel, pick up the pen, or doing anything else you love to do?

Two Extremely Helpful Practices To Get You Creating

Two things will help you most to get started creating each time:

1) A regular creative practice at the same day/same time each week, so that it becomes an unquestioned habit (nothing helps more than this). See my post on The Power of Creative Routines for more about this.

2) A way into the creative activity itself, a way to begin.

In this essay and the next one, I address the second step above. I talk about ways to help yourself get started once you are in the studio. However, these tools will also reduce resistance to getting yourself there in the first place. (To find out more about getting yourself into the studio, read my essay on Resistance to Creating.)

Create a Simple Ritual to Invoke Your Muse


Photo by Michael Duliba

Create a regular way to enter into your creative practice. A simple ritual is helpful. Simple is, most often, best, so that your ritual doesn’t become yet another hindrance to doing creative work.

The ritual serves to alert you that you are entering a different state of being, one set apart from the workaday world, you are opening yourself to the creative flow, making yourself available to greater powers to flow through.

The ritual is like a gateway you pass through to enter the creative state. It announces your availability to your muse.

I like to light a candle, ring a small bell, and say a short prayer. Sometimes I also fill a bowl with water and a few drops of essential oils and wash my hands in a symbolic act. In this way, I evoke my physical senses and engage my whole being in the creative act to come.

Take a Moment to Connect

In whatever ritual you choose, take a moment to connect to the following three things:

  1. Your reason for creating—what it gives you, why you love it, why it matters. This is what I call your Deep Why.
  2. A promise and commitment to yourself to not judge what happens during your creative time that day—not the work itself, nor how much you did or did not do, nor your abilities or talent.
  3. A sense of offering up your work in service to something larger than yourself. This may be the world, others who will benefit from it, the Divine, or art and beauty itself. In other words, detach from your ego’s ambitions and attachments to the work and reconnect to a deeper purpose.

It only takes a minute or two to connect to these three things, and they will help you be motivated and free to create from a place of love and giving, and keep your ego mind more quiet, so that you can do the work/play.

At the end of my creative time, I have a little ritual of closure to mark my transition back to the so-called ordinary world. I ring the bell again, blow out the candle, and pour the water in the bowl onto the earth outside.

Ritual Helps Us Enter the Creative State

Full disclosure: I don’t always do my ritual. Sometimes I resist the ritual itself. Often I simplify it to just lighting a candle and ringing a bell.

But I find the ritual helps me in small, subtle ways to cross a threshold into creativity and to sanctify the time and activity, making me less apt to get distracted or off-course or to postpone starting.

The ritual also reminds me that I do the work not for my sake alone, but for a greater purpose, that my art is meant to serve others and the Divine. It gives me a moment to reconnect to this larger purpose and helps me put my ego aside and dive into connection with something larger than me and more meaningful, and that, at the same time, is motivating and inspiring to me.

Your Ritual Needs to be Right for You

Meditating person

Photo by Dingzeyu Li

Bottom line: Your ritual needs to work for you and suit your nature. It could be going for a walk or doing yoga before your creative time. Coming into the body and getting the energy flowing is very helpful because our creative energy is our life force energy, or chi, and it helps to have that flowing.

Your ritual might be as simple as clearing off your desk before sitting down to write, removing distractions. Some artists put on a special piece of clothing each time or their favorite music. Some simply begin by making a strong cup of tea or coffee. Many have superstitious and strange habits that work to signal their muse to show up.

Your ritual need not be elaborate, and it is essential that it works for you. By “works for you” I mean it suits your nature, and it does not become another obstacle to creativity. Your ritual should help you to enter the creative state, to invoke your creativity and inspiration and set aside your self-judgments, doubts and preoccupations with the rest of life for the time being. You may need to experiment a bit to find a ritual you like.

In our next issue of Creative Sparks, I give you some bright ideas to help you overcome the blank page/blank canvas syndrome and get creating. Click here to read Part 2 of this series on Tending Your Creative Fire.

To your creative fire,



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