New Years always comes and goes. We might set a resolution with the best of intention, but lots of us don’t finish.
Hi my name is Carrie and today on Artist Strong, I want to talk about why so many of us fail to follow through on our art and what we can do to change that.
The first thing I’d like you to do is ask yourself: am I choosing the right goals? What do I mean by this? I’m going to break this down for you and I have five reasons that we don’t follow through. Then we’ll go through some strategies to help you follow through and reach some concrete goals that help you with your art in this new year.
The first reason that we fail to follow through on our art, is that we pick a goal we think we “should” do.
That word should is definitely in quotations. I’ve heard someone say “people die of the shoulds.” I like that notion in terms of shoulds are never things that we want to do. They feel obligatory. They’re something we feel obliged to follow through on. There’s not the excitement or spark. Is your goal based on something like that?
Is it, “I should really clean out and reorganize my studio?” Is it, “I’ve done this series of art work, but they really don’t speak to my style anymore, but I should really do two more, so that I can put them up in exhibit?” If that doesn’t align with your goals anymore, or if that work is now part of your past and you want to make some new work because you have a new style or voice you’re investigating, then give yourself permission to do that.
Don’t let your goals be dictated by things you think you should do. Have a larger overarching goal that really drives you and makes you feel passionate. Then sometimes those shoulds will feel better too.
Sometimes we need to finish a few more art works for a series of artwork, because we have a deadline, or a commissioned work, or we know that that work is important for our career. That’s different, because we have this larger why that helps guide us and motivate us. A lot of times our resolutions are these shoulds that don’t tie to any larger, deeper goal we have for ourself.
The second reason we often fail to reach or achieve our goals when we set New Year’s resolutions is we’re too ambitious with them.
For example I’m doing embroidered Mandala work and some of them take me 50 or 60 hours to complete and they’re the size of my head. If that takes 50 or 60 hours and I then instead decide for the new year to try to make a Mandala the size of table cloth of a large table, how many hours is that going to be? How will I feel any sense of reward or accomplishment, because that could take me years to finish, especially by hand!
Ask yourself: am I being too ambitious? I know that sounds counter intuitive, like don’t be too lofty right? I want you to make achievable goals, because guess what, if you finish them, you’ll be more motivated to make the next one and the next one and that’s where you’re going to find success.
That leads me to my third reason that we don’t finish our work, is that we don’t break our bigger goals down into the chunks.
Say I wanted to do this really large Mandala embroidery work. The best way to do that and feel a sense of achievement would be to break it into chunks. Perhaps I divide it into some kind of smaller square that I do a little bit at a time. Perhaps I choose one color at a time to fill through the whole space.
Doing something smaller like that, would help me break up this larger task and also again, feel that sense of accomplishment. If we don’t feel that accomplishment, or that satisfying tick off on our list that we’ve done it, then we’re not going to be motivated to keep going. There won’t be any sense of reward for ourselves and that’s really important when we’re setting New Year’s resolutions for our art.
The fourth reason we don’t follow through on our goals is we don’t understand our personality and how that informs the way we need to hold ourselves accountable.
I’ve read this great book by Gretchen Rubin called Better Than Before and she has a wonderful quiz that breaks down the four personality types that she discusses and I have them here in my notes.
She says that typically people are upholders, rebels, questioners, or obligers. People most popularly are questioners or obligers and this means the following:
A questioner needs to understand the reasoning behind something and believe that reason to follow through on that task or expectation (or goal).
An obliger needs someone else to support them. For example, an obliger needs to partner with someone that they trust. If they wanted to go to the gym more, knowing that their friend was meeting them at the gym would help them follow through on that.
Think about that for your art. What if you met with a friend every week on Skype and just put up the video? You don’t talk to each other, but you both know that you’re working during that time, or that you meet up in person and have a shared work studio space, so that you work together.
For questioners, you need to reflect on the why of your goal and why it’s important to you. If you really believe that why, you’re not going to have a problem following through.
The other two categories are a little more rare for personality type. One is an upholder and they pretty much can do anything they tell themselves to do. They don’t need external factors, or people, or influence to help them follow through, but they can also commit to things that other people ask of them to do. They just do it.
Rebels on the other hand, reject rules and boundaries and they need to operate from a sense of freedom. This is the most rare group and rebels need to have again that sense of freedom dictate their choices. If you’re a rebel, giving yourself boundaries will only hold you back. Choosing to have a new years’ resolution in itself could start to make you feel stuck.
The irony of all of this with a rebel is, you might want to set a New Year’s resolution, but as soon as you do it, then you don’t want to, because you’ve just given yourself a rule. You need to feel free and keep the idea and that word freedom in your decision making process. That will help a rebel follow through. If you want to know which personality type you are be sure to take the quiz linked above.
The fifth reason we don’t follow through with goals that we set for ourselves for the new year, is that we don’t allow for the change in our lives that happens as time goes on.
Within two weeks time you may see that the goal you set isn’t quite right for yourself and you need to adjust it a little bit. That’s completely okay and yet we don’t give ourselves permission to do this.
In fact by changing the goal, sometimes we feel like we’ve just failed at our New Year’s resolution (that’s an issue for upholders, for sure). Instead of doing that and giving ourselves this black and white: you’ve either done it or you haven’t, why not instead let yourself periodically check in with that goal and go, “Does this still really suit me and my hopes and dreams for my art?”
Listen and check in with your inner artist, that gut feeling, and let that help you make your choice about your art. We should be able to refine our goals as our life flows, ebbs and flows.
I want to recap all of this for you today.
(1) First thing I want you to do is to make a goal from the heart and think about words that would help guide you. This year for me, those words are artisan, empowered and radiant. Instead of having this defined goal for myself for the whole year, I’m using those feelings or words to help me dictate my choices. Will I feel those things? Will those words relate to the choices that I’m making? That’s helping me make goals that align with my heart, my art, and my business stuff. Everything fits together.
(2) I encourage you to do is to create smaller tasks to help you reach your larger goal. Say you create this really large grandiose goal for yourself. That’s awesome. Let’s create scaffolding to get there. List out all of small steps. Every little piece that comes to your mind. Do a brain dump on a piece of paper, or on a computer document and list out every possible step you might need to take to reach that larger goal.
(3) Then ask yourself how many of these tasks can I do every week? There you go. You’ve got smaller steps to get there. Have accountability and you need to know how accountability fits into your life and your nature as a creative. Be sure you take that quiz by Gretchen Rubin and figure out whether you’re a rebel, you’re an upholder, whether you’re a questioner, or an obliger. Knowing that will help you use accountability tools that really suit your personality.
Be Creatively Courageous: I’d love you to share your updated goal for the year or for the next few months and create a list of smaller tasks that you can break it down into, so that you can start achieving. Then once you do that, I want to know how are you going to keep yourself accountable?
If you’ve enjoyed watching today’s video, please share it and don’t forget, I have a free ten day art challenge. It’s called The SoulBrush Sessions. If you need a little kickstart, or you’re feeling like you need to reinvigorate and feel inspired, it’s a 10 day activity with different media, art exploration, and different creative prompts to get you making and help you reconnect with that inner artist of yours.
I’ll have that link for the 10 day art challenge below this video as well. I hope to see you in the free challenge. Thanks for watching guys. I will see you next week.