New Year’s Resolutions and the Creative Person
It seems that many creative people love making New Year’s resolutions. The pleasure of coming up with plans for exciting new growth, and positive changes, can get us sparkling with delight. Especially if we have a gorgeous new journal, pots of jewel-coloured ink and a sumptuous, smooth fountain pen… Not to mention a really good bar of mouth-watering dark chocolate to help things along…
But if we’re not careful, it’s all too easy for our hopeful, growth-oriented plans to turn into sticks that we beat ourselves with. You probably know the kind of thing I mean. ‘I’m going to draw every day and post it online’… ‘I’m going to knit a Fair Isle jumper by March’… ‘Every morning at 6am I’m going to make a colourful double-page spread in my creative journal’… After a couple of weeks they’ve started happening only every few days, until a couple of months later you come across your sketchbook/ knitting/ journal poking out from underneath a stack of books and papers. This brings up feelings of failure, anxiety, guilt, and even shame. And then you end up feeling far worse than you would have if you’d never set any New Year’s resolutions for yourself.
Process, Not Goals: Making Resolutions That Can Actually Help
I think one solution is to set positive intentions that are manageable, kind to yourself, and sustainable. If you want to set New Year’s resolutions, go ahead. But maybe this time round, your New Year’s resolutions could be more about processes and attitudes, rather than focused on goals. I often find that in many situations, taking a process-led approach (rather than focusing on a narrow and pre-defined goal) can lead to more creative, enjoyable and ultimately productive experiences. The good news is that for most creative people, a process-led approach comes fairly easily. We know the value in slowing down and savouring the process of our creative flow.Making your New Years' resolutions about process, not goals. #creative #HSP Click To Tweet
My Four Process-Led Resolutions
Here are 4 process-led New Year’s resolutions that I’m thinking about for myself. They’re based on values that I hold, and being about processes not goals means I don’t get so easily sidelined into the ‘you failed’ shame-trap.
1. Just 10 Minutes
There are certain things I want (and/or need) to work on, but don’t often manage to find chunks of time for. So I’m going to invite myself to spend just 10 minutes a day on them. At the end of the 10 minutes, I might choose (if there’s time) to extend, to 15 or 30 minutes or longer. But equally, I may finish my 10 minutes and move straight on to something else. I’m going to apply this to a range of activities. Tasks I hate and generally tend to procrastinate on (like certain kinds of paperwork, or admin-type phone calls); activities I love but tend not to do very often (like art journaling, blog post writing, and planning workshops); and activities that I neither love nor hate but which would be helpful for me to do, such as meditation, yoga, and cleaning the bathroom. I’ll even set a timer, to help me remember I have the option to stop when the 10 minutes are up. And after? I’ll count the 10 minutes as a positive achievement. I will not start getting down on myself for not doing more, not finishing the task, etc.
Studies have proven that connecting to a sense of gratitude on a daily basis is strongly correlated with feelings of wellbeing. It isn’t essential to write down a gratitude list — telling someone verbally is equally effective. But I rather like writing, so I’ve set aside a book in which I’ll spend a few minutes at the beginning and end of the day, briefly jotting down 3 things that I’m feeling grateful for. As I jot down each one, I’ll spend a moment connecting to a bodily felt sense of the gratitude I feel for that thing. To deepen the experience and help it sink in, I’ll also enquire of myself, where do I feel the gratitude right now? Is it in my heart? In my belly? In my face as I smile? Breathe it in, and out again. The idea is also, that when you’re in the habit of noticing what you’re grateful for, you tend to have more moments during the day when you’re connecting to your bodily-felt sense of gratitude. Which can have a powerful calming effect on your nervous system.
3. Extend Friendships
In ‘Frientimacy’, author Shasta Nelson* reminds us that friendships play a hugely important role in our happiness, wellbeing, health and even longevity. Many of us neglect our friendships. We may yearn for deeper connections with our friends. And as we get older, some of us notice that we’re making fewer new friends. Nelson offers us a model that she calls ‘The Frientimacy Triangle’ as a kind of roadmap of how to help broaden, build and deepen our friendships. The triangle has three sides, with ‘Positivity’ as its base (because, she says, a relationship cannot start or grow without it). Positivity is to do with giving and receiving. Another side is ‘Consistency’: building trust (spending time with someone on a regular basis, and making and keeping commitments). And the third side is ‘Vulnerability’ (deepening meaning, opening up, etc).
As someone who tends to be a bit on the introverted side, it’s very easy for me to enjoy staying in, doing quieter family stuff or just working happily on my creative projects. There’s nothing wrong with that, in itself; but I have to be careful to balance that with spending time with my friends. So one of my New Year’s resolutions is going to be to attend more to my friendships and social connections, and to remember how valuable they are.
4. Sleep Better
Good quality sleep makes a huge difference to our wellbeing. So, very simply: I’m going to set myself up to get more opportunity for sleep, and hopefully better quality sleep, too. This is, of course, much easier said than done, for many of us (me included) – but there are many useful tips that can help. Check out my blog post The Creative Person’s Guide to Getting Better Sleep.
Avoiding the Perfectionism Trap
There’s one more thing that’s pretty crucial: I’ll be prepared for imperfection. There will be days when I seem to fail at every one of my resolutions. Of course there will! And that will be okay. With a process-based approach, I can allow for mistakes and gaps, and get back on with being creative/ productive/ mindful/ friendly etc as intended.
How about you? What resolutions do you plan to make, if any? Do you find a goal-led approach or a process-led approach work better for you as a creative person? Let me know in the comments below.4 process-led New Year's resolutions geared towards the creative #HSP Click To Tweet
*’Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness‘ (2016) Shasta Nelson. Seal Press
What a great writer you are, Emma ! I think there is a book in here somewhere !
These are brilliant ideas…here is my thinking on this matter just the other day .
Overall goal is a sense of alignment …of knowing inside what my priorities are and seeing their unfolding nature.
First priority is coming to know the nature of things…of G.O. D. Or “that which is” through nature, creative processes, just being ( see the poem Camas Lilies by Lynn Ungar )
Second is keeping clear through process of enquiry ( The Work ) and focusing ( E. Gendlin)
Creating from my heart in the space of connection to everything.
And because of this, is living in alignment with my resources…financial, physical, emotional, psychological, creative.
And knowing that the energy that takes me outside the bounds of my resources is the energy of ‘self. ‘
Sitting quietly in enquiry and being in touch with the wholeness of existence because it takes me back to my highest priority…connection…seeing the whole …no separation at any level.
Zeroing in on specifics of the emerging creative process..not reaching out for the distacting extras orbitting around but pinpointing my resources toward my goals.
In practical terms, in the area of clay work this means letting go of trying all the different processes I come across and zeroing in on one for some length of time.
Letting go of the ‘seeking mind ‘ that can waste a lot of time on the internet
Letting go of the delicious experiences of foods that do not serve my goal of a healthier body.
Letting go of time just sitting around or on the ipad in favour if creative time drawing.
Will keep you posted about any more that come up….
Love and big hugs Emma!
Emma Cameron says
This is lovely Kathleen! “a sense of alignment …of knowing inside what my priorities are and seeing their unfolding nature”
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Alison Hopkins says
I really enjoyed reading your blog post – your resolutions were a timely reminder. I especially liked “I’ll be prepared for imperfection”!
Mine is to plan to meditate every day, even if sometimes I can only manage 3 minutes as I get so much benefit from meditating.
Best wishes for 2018
Emma Cameron says
Thanks Alison. I agree – even 3 minutes of meditation counts! Sometimes that is all I can manage, too – and that’s okay. 🙂