Setting Goals in Woodworking

New year resolutions. It’s stated that 89% of people who set a new year resolution fail in keeping it. In fact, most people fail within the first 12 days. It’s probably why most folks tell me, they don’t even bother to make goals.

I too, in the past, have fallen victim to setting goals and failing. I try to eat better, exercise more, and improve my woodworking. Most people are not shocked to hear I have failed at the first two items on the list. But they are surprised about the third. The reason for that was, in the past, I was making my woodworking goals too vague. I would say something like, “I want to improve my woodworking skills.” or “I want to have more time for woodworking.”

But a goal should have a step by step plan to be able to achieve it, otherwise, this is more like having ambition than a goal. So here are some things that I try to do to help make my woodworking goals achievable.

Dream Big

It would seem odd to say dream because dreaming is just the opposite of achieving goals. Dreaming is like wanting to live in a fairy tale and not based in reality. But dreaming is the fuel that excels you to the future. 

We all need something that makes us want/desire for more. Maybe it’s making a reproduction of a classic antique. Maybe it’s designing a unique new style of furniture. Whatever it is, we need to dream to get the excitement and passion to propel us to do more. 

Make a “Dream Wish List” of whatever you hope to achieve. No matter how outlandish it might seem, write it down or have a picture, and hang it in your shop. This will always remind you are working to achieve that dream and one day make it a reality.

Examine and Dissect

Once a Dream Wish List has been made, look at it closer and write a general outline of what specific steps must be done to accomplish it. Is it made of an exotic wood that might take time to acquire? Does it have a unique joinery method that will require a special tool or jig? Maybe it’s just a picture and plans have to be made for it. Whatever it is, make a breakdown list of the steps it will require.

No Project, No Problem

Sometimes we might lack enthusiasm because we just don’t have a project going in the shop. It could be we just haven’t found something we want to build. Maybe it’s the lack of money to fund the project or no space for the desired project once completed. This can be where we might lose motivation. But that is where our Dream Wish List will help us. What is on the list? Does that dream project have carving, turning, or some intricate joinery? This becomes a good opportunity to practice those techniques with scrap wood. Woodworking is a skill that needs to be practiced. Time away from the shop will cause our skills to become rusty. However, practicing will get us one step closer to achieving a goal.

Share Success and Failures

Perhaps our woodworking stalls because we become discouraged or bored with it. Maybe we can not figure out a technique or how to work through a problem in a design. Frustration can rob us of our desire and love we once had. Many times the solution is as simple as just talking about it.

Sharing our problems or frustrations with a fellow woodworker can prove to be very therapeutic. If the fellow woodworker has the same problem we can take comfort in the fact we are not alone with this situation. However, the fellow woodworker might have had the same experience at one time, and then can share his or her method for a solution.

Many times I have shared my problems and in the end, we find ourselves laughing over it. I’ve walked away after having a discussion feeling better because the simple fact is, others have had the same problem at one time or another. The old saying is true, “Just talk about it, you’ll feel better.”

Write it Down

As I get older, I find I have to make a list every day to remind me what needs to be done.

Besides having a memory that isn’t as sharp as it used to be, there is another advantage to making a list.

Having a list of what needs to get accomplished in the shop allows me to see my progress. Even if the items on the list are small and simple, once I cross off an item, I have a feeling of completing something. Having a simple “To DO List” is a great motivator and an empowering tool.

Yearly Reflection

Before we know it, another year will have past and time waits for no one. But taking time to reflect does have its advantages. I can look at my customer’s jobs I’ve completed or look around my own home and see the furniture pieces I have created. I am able to chart my progress and have a sense of satisfaction. 

With that being said, I can also recall the failed attempts I’ve made with my furniture and can see where I need improvement.  Trying to not feel as if I am a failure I recall the words of Thomas Edison. He once said, “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

These are some simple steps that can help one to achieve woodworking goals and continually be advancing in woodworking skills. But what about having more time for woodworking? With everyone’s busy schedule, time is where most of us need help. Well, in a previous blog, I break down some simple steps that can be done to maximize even 5 minutes in woodworking. All this is done in an effort to help you become a better woodworker.

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Chad Stanton- Owner of Stanton Fine Furniture.