Goal Setting for Creatives — Planning the Forest to get through the Trees

Amanda Mallardo
4 min readAug 22, 2020


After spending my early adulthood attacking and accomplishing my goals, I reached a high point of my life where I realized I’ve completed everything I set out to do before forty. When someone would tend to believe that this would be an accomplishment in and of itself, this was actually a very frightening place. I was far from over with my life. I’ve gotten so used to slaying away that when I got to the point where my list was done, I didn’t know where to go. I was lost and didn’t know what to do next.

Maybe I should have made a bigger list?

From the time I was 11 years old, all I dreamed of doing was skateboarding. I wanted to work, live, and breath skateboarding and work in the industry. I spent my early adulthood competing in professional women’s contests, working at skate parks and shops, traveling around the country, designing skateboard graphics, building, and managing a website and mobile app for women who skate. By the time I turned thirty, I married the man of my dreams — who happens to be a skatepark designer and builder and moved into a home and built a skate park in our garage.

Everything I had in my wildest childhood dreams actually happened.

However, I was tired and burnt out. I had a hard time enjoying my life because I was so focused on which tricks I should learn next or the next project I had in mind. I beaten by body down by forcing myself to do tricks I may have not been ready for and I was spending most of my non-skating hours glued to a computer screen. After a severe back injury that took me out for a few months and almost cost me my mobility, I took a long hard look at WHY I was doing the things I was doing.

I had to outgrow my inner 11-year-old’s skate-life fantasy and reinvent a new one. I had to piece out what I was doing for myself, and what I was doing for someone else’s expectations. Success is a language to which everyone has their own version. Was I speaking my own or a version of someone else’s?

My Whole Perspective Changed.

How I’d originally approach my goals was with laser focus on accomplishing tasks. I’d get ideas on a whim and have this inner drive to see them become a reality.

I would make a list of tricks that I needed to land, projects I needed to finish, or places I wanted to go and mark them off the list and move onto the next thing. This worked well for accomplishing things — I attacked my list and then some, but I wasn’t working towards a bigger picture. It was a constant grind with no end in sight.

I took a long break from everything, dropped the website, and the app, quit drawing, and skateboarding, spent time with myself, got away from all the noise, and relaxed a bit — got perspective.

Every day, I went through and listed all the reasons why I was doing the things I was doing in a journal, and realized that much of what I was doing had no reason at all. Sometimes I was merely trying to to prove to myself that I could do something — like hucking myself down a set of stairs on a skateboard. That one hurt! But I got into a regular habit of writing my ideas down, then I asking myself if completing this task was going to benefit me years down the line. If not, I took it off the list of things to do.

If I got an idea that I was really excited about and was certain I wanted to tackle, I kept it in the notebook for a while. I could always revisit it later on. So far, most of the ideas are left behind. It was hard to do this exercise at first, because I get really excited about ideas and making them become a reality. But after a while, it took a lot of pressure off me and eased my anxiety. If I come back to an idea I want to tackle, I know it’s something that I really want to do. This technique also makes me aware that the things that I’m currently working on are things that matter.

I flipped my approach to achieving goals.

Now, instead of having a task list on any given day, I have a general picture in my head of where I want to be in 5 years, 10 years, and further. This has allowed me to look at the forest and not just the trees. I still have actions I need to take get to where I want to go; however, the process is more fluid. Instead of ticking off random boxes on a daily checklist, I ask myself what would be in my best interest to do today, keeping that big picture in mind. The details reveal themselves in the moment and I then make a list based on what most feasible and most important.

I’ve since started to skateboard again. Again, instead of attacking a trick list, I train and practice and then patiently wait for the tricks to come instead of forcing myself to land whatever the tricks the masses are doing. I now do things with intention and purpose and take a more sustainable approach to my goal setting. Nothing needs to be done by the end of the session except for the time I put in.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When life is not happening as soon as I would like, having the end goal in mind keep things in focus. I’m in this for the long haul.



Amanda Mallardo

UX Design Lead, Creative Coder, Design Thinker, Skateboarder, MS in Product Design www.amandamallardo.com