An artist needs to get many things done in order to have a career. With so many things to keep straight, one trick is to identify a clear intention and then align your thoughts and your behaviors with that intention. Here’s a technique for helping you do just that—it’s called focused journaling.

This focused way of journaling has the following components:

1. You identify an issue

2. You examine its significance

3. You identify core questions

4. You tease out intentions

5. You notice what shadows get activated

6. You identify the strengths you bring

7. You align your thoughts with your intentions

8. You align your behaviors with your intentions

How does this process work? Imagine a painter who is having trouble making sense of the next steps in her career. She paints pretty regularly, is pretty happy with both the number of paintings she finishes and with their quality, but feels stuck trying to decide “how to market herself.” She can’t really align her thoughts with her intentions yet because she doesn’t have any clear intentions, just the general intention “to market myself somehow.” Her first step is to zero in on a clear intention by chatting with herself via journaling.

Her focused journaling might proceed as follows (I’m including bracketed numbers to indicate the various points of the process):

“Okay, I know I need to market myself [1]. This isn’t just a ‘should’ from somebody else’s agenda but something that matters to me and that I have to own as important [2]. I can’t just pile up finished canvases from now until the end of time and feel good about myself as a painter [2]. So, what exactly am I supposed to do? My head swims just thinking about it! There’s so much advice out there—and so few painters making it! I think that the people selling the advice are the only ones making money! But … I know that successful painters exist. Maybe they’re the exceptions that prove the rule, but those exceptions do exist. So let me stay positive …

“I think the central question I need to address is, am I imagining that I’m going the gallery route or am I taking some other route [3]? If I go the gallery route, what is the smartest way to proceed [3]? If I mean to take some other route, what are those routes [3]? Well, I can try to make my studio my gallery, invite prospective buyers here, and try to do it all myself. I can create a website—but will that amount to anything but a very pretty business card seen by no one [3]? If I don’t get publicity and if I don’t make a name for myself, what good is a pretty website or a studio that doubles as a gallery [3]? And won’t galleries need an unknown like me to come to them with a name already—that crazy chicken-and-egg problem [3]? So—doesn’t it make sense to focus on “getting a name” [3]? But what does that mean [3]?

“Okay. My intention is to figure out how an unknown painter acquires a name for herself [4]. Well, that brings up all sorts of issues [5]. I’m not really prepared to stand out or make waves—I see myself as an introvert who prefers the studio and doesn’t do all that well in the world [5]. How can ‘that sort of person’ make a name for herself? And I’m usually an advice-taker and would customarily turn to a book, a website or a workshop to get this information [5]. But mustn’t this understanding of how to make a name for myself come from me for it to fit me and seem real? I’m not sure. I think I’ll do a quick check of what’s out there by way of advice about ‘creating a name for yourself’ and see if any of that looks promising [8].

“I’m not sure exactly how to proceed but I do feel that I have an intention: to figure out how to make a name for myself as a painter [4]. And I think that I have the basic smarts, ambition, energy and backbone to pull that off [6]. So, in order to keep my thoughts aligned with that intention, I am going to begin to say the following things to myself [7]. I am going to say, ‘I can prove the exception’ [7]. I am going to say, ‘I can figure out how to make a name for myself’ [7]. When I hear myself saying things like ‘You have no chance’ and ‘Who do you think you are?,’ I am going to counter those thoughts with, ‘You don’t serve me, thought!’ [7].

“As to aligning my behaviors with my intention, first of all I’m going to do some basic research on strategies for ‘making a name for yourself’ [8]. A lot of those strategies I want to rule out quickly if they sound too run-of the-mill. But if I find one or two that have a feeling of rightness to them, I will start on them immediately [8]. After I’ve done that basic research I’ll check back in with myself through journaling to make sure that I am holding the right intention, and if I feel that I am then I’ll get cracking and put into practice whatever I’ve learned [8].

Try out this method yourself. It’s a great method for gaining insight and aiming yourself in the direction of action.

As to forming clear intentions, you might want to check out my class Life Purpose Bootcamp. It’s a short, powerful class that will help you form strong life purpose intentions! To learn more:


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