Making Plans and Setting Goals in Woodworking

I’m a guy who relies on planning. Every day I make a list of the things I need/want to do.  This helps me stay on track and not get derailed on a side project. (hint- it doesn’t always work) But the really important list for me is my yearly goals. 

Every new year I like to write out yearly goals for myself. Once a week I review them to see if I am on track. I do this because it helps me see my progress and I feel as if I am not wasting time. However, honestly, I rarely accomplish all my yearly goals. I can laugh at myself because I rarely finish my daily list. And in the normal fashion, this year is proving to be no different because I am already getting off track.

One of my goals is to design and build 15 original pieces of furniture. This is in addition to the pieces I am building for my clients. I realize this is most likely not obtainable but I wanted to try. I always set high goals for myself. If they are too easy, I believe I will not be focused or take it seriously. I usually reflect on the prior year’s goal list and I’m usually modestly pleased with the results even though I did not complete the list. But this year is just beginning and my first problem presented itself.

I always enjoy the creative process of designing a new piece of furniture.  The ideas flowing through my head. Envisioning the look of a piece. Formulating the construction of it. And therein lies my problem. The creative process has always been something that inspires me. But now setting a goal to produce 15 unique pieces puts pressure on me. The process is not inspired but forced to be creative. And when the creative process is forced nothing is unique. It’s unoriginal and lacks the passion that a piece of furniture requires and deserves. I felt empty inside.

Creating unique new designs takes time and concentration. The Buddha once said, “What we think, we become.” Now I’m not trying to “become” a piece of furniture, but without time set aside to concentrate, my idea won’t become a final product.  I find myself frustrated and on edge. I begin to think negative thoughts like, “Maybe I can’t do it. What if I just don’t have any new ideas?” It doesn’t help that every day I’m bombarded with distractions as well. Phone calls, emails, text messages, posts, and god knows what’s next. It’s almost impossible to think, let alone meditate on something. These things and this way of thinking is negative and destructive. 

As usual, when I need some peace I like to turn to take a walk in nature. The woods behind my shop are my escape from the world. In the woods it’s quiet. I’m alone and it seems as if time stands still. At first glance, one would say that everything in nature moves slow. This is true. We don’t see a tree grow but every year it’s a little bit bigger and has more leaves. We can’t see the grass grow but every day it gets a little bit greener. But nature can also move fast. The deer don’t wait to find out if a predator is friendly or not. It will instinctively spring into action and will be gone in the blink of an eye. A squirrel will sprint up a tree and leap an amazing distance to another tree. It does it with speed and grace. It was at that moment I realized my thought process needs to be more like nature.

When it comes to my designs, I can’t force an idea to come to fruition. No more than I can force and make a tree grow faster.  I need to think slowly and take time for each piece. I need to reflect on it, the purpose of it, the reason for it. And when an idea comes to me, even just a small thought, I need to be quick to make a note of it. I’ll do a sketch, or write down the thought. I can’t just rely on my memory.

To help assure that I don’t rely on just my memory, I’ve decided to have a notebook near me these days. I can quickly jot down any idea that pops into my head. It might go nowhere or perhaps it will lead to a fully thought-out piece of furniture. I believe that an idea may not come to light today, but months later looking back in the notebook that idea might have some signs of growth or inspiration that form into a new project.  I’m hoping that in time this thought process will develop some amazing pieces with a signature that is truly my own. Will it be able to develop and build 15 original pieces of furniture? Doubtful, but I’m hopeful. At the very least I want to have drawn out measurement plans for 15 pieces.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter if I design and build 15 pieces of furniture. What’s truly important is that each individual piece has my full attention, has time to be inspired naturally, and is given time to grow into a heartfelt meaningful piece.

Chad Stanton- Owner of Stanton Fine Furniture 1-29-2021