Sunday, January 12, 2014


Many of my friends, whether artists or not, make New Year's resolutions. And every year we hear on radio, television, social media, when having coffee with those friends, that they broke the resolutions they made within a few weeks. It was just too hard to do what they had planned...

A number of years ago, I switched from making resolutions to making goals for my year. I even posted them on this blog, thinking that accountability was a good thing. For the most part that worked for me, but there was a measure of guilt if I was not on track, and I didn't really see the improvement I was looking for. The reason? Although I might have finished close to the goal I had set, the progress was often in spurts and fits. I would do well, and then slack off...or the goal seemed overwhelming and I would pull back. So this year, I decided not to make resolutions, and not to set goals.

That doesn't mean I am doing nothing to move forward in my art and my life. That doesn't mean that I have no ideas, dreams, hopes, or even goals. It does mean that I am implementing what I believe will really help me in my quest to become the artist I want to be.

This year I am setting up "systems" to move forward.

"What in the world does that mean???" you ask. Well, I will try to explain with some examples, and hopefully you will understand what I am talking about. 

Let's look at a New Year's resolution that some artists might have...

-to quit a full time job by March and become a full time artist.

This resolution is so huge and overwhelming that it's hard to know where to jump in and start. What does it mean to BE a "full time artist"? How does one accomplish that? What about earning the money you need to support do you go about doing that once you've quit your full time job?  The questions pile up...until the logistics of the resolution are so overwhelming that the artist is paralyzed with fear, confusion, a lack of the point that very little is accomplished and the artist is no closer to achieving "the dream" than last year. (This is the artist's version of the person who resolves on New Year's day to become an athlete by going to the gym every day for the rest of their lives. They buy a gym membership, and start on January 2nd with great intentions. By late February, the gyms are back to the regular number of patrons, and the swell of New-Year's-resolution-athletes have faded away.) There was no system in place to support the resolution.

What about some goals an artist might make on New Year's Day...

-to paint X number of paintings this year, enter 2 competitions, and get gallery representation by June

You can see the difference between the resolution and the goal. The goal is more specific, and certainly more "measurable", which is good. But, without systems in place it may be difficult to achieve each of these goals. Not knowing how to go about each of these goals can stall the process, and there comes a point where discouragement sets in and momentum is lost.

The above goals are based on achievement, as was the resolution. They are all about the end point, with no steps to getting to that end point.

So, let me give you an example of what a system looks like in my life at this moment. My desire (or goal) is to become "fit". But I am not focussed on that goal which might happen sometime in the future. I am not focussed on achievement. Instead, I am focussed on PROGRESS. So, in order to progress, I have put a system in place that consists of doing something physical each and every day. One day at a time. I keep showing up every day, and do something- every day. Some days it's a run/jog. Some days it is a walk on the beach. Other days it is an exercise video, or a hike, or a ride on my get the idea. It doesn't have to be a lot, it just has to be every day. As I do something every day, I progress. And I am recording what I do each day so that I can see the progression from "before". This week, I am more able to run without needing CPR than last week. I am progressing. Next week, I will be able to lift a 5 pound weight one more rep than this week. And as I continue with this system of doing something every day, I will eventually become fit. It will just happen, without becoming overwhelmed, without becoming discouraged. 

This morning I went back to several blogs I used to visit when I first started my blog about 5 years ago. I can see the difference in these artists' work. They have progressed - significantly. And I suspect the reason is that they do something related to their art most every day. And the days they are unable to do their art, they don't give up or beat themselves up, they just do something the next matter how small. 

Consistency is your best friend. You will experience slow and steady gains. And as the days slip past, before you know it, you will be in the place you gave up on when it was a resolution or a goal just last year. 

a new day

It really is about showing up every day. Which is what I intend to do this year. I am going to show up and do something related to my art 5 days a week. Every one of the 5 days. And before I know it, December 2014 will be here, and I will have progressed. Enough that when someone looks at my work, they see significant improvement. new best strategy to become the artist I want to be. 

What about you? What are your dreams that could benefit from a system this year?

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