I realize that the title sounds incredibly dramatic, but it's true. This past year I finally, truly, took to heart those things that people are always saying about goal setting and making things happen. That goals should be clear and measurable. That saying something like "draw more" or "have better skin" is not useful goal because there isn't a good way to track my progress or to hold myself accountable. That breaking big goals into small steps is helpful. That building habits can make a huge difference, instead of making huge sweeping changes in one go.
If you have read this blog or followed me on Instagram or met me in real life, you probably know that my big, huge daunting goal for 2015 was to draw every day. I had another measurable, numerical goal for 2015, which was to read 25 books (this goal would have been pathetic for me a few years ago, but I had fallen out of the habit of reading big time). And towards October, I realized that I was crushing both of them. I hadn't missed a day of drawing (and posting to Instagram) and I was about to hit my 25 book goal with plenty of time to spare. And that is when I realized: I am beholden to the streak.
I do not want to break the streak - be it daily, weekly or monthly. I love tracking things. It is so satisfying to watch the days stack up and so devastating to see a black mark or a break in the pretty little row of check marks if I missed a day. I liked working towards a number - and knowing that I was on track (or how far off track I was) to meet my reading goal in the allotted time. It felt wonderful and I had no problem keeping up with these goals on a daily (or regular) basis, even though they seemed so huge when I first set them.
And beyond streaks, the goals (drawing and reading) had become habits. It is so automatic to me now to come home, cook some dinner, sit on the couch, and draw (or paint with watercolor or whatever is making lines and shapes on a surface that I consider drawing for the purpose of this challenge and being able to write it out or talk about it without it taking hundreds of words). I just do it automatically. This isn't even always a good thing, because I just sit down with a bunch of art supplies and don't even think about laundry, or writing a blog post, or scanning artwork (and I'd definitely prefer to draw and play with colors and patterns and paint than do those things). If I have had an unexpectedly long day and I haven't had a chance to come home and draw until late, I still draw before I even think about going to bed. If I know I will have a day of traveling or something in the evening that will prevent me from drawing then I do it earlier in the day or take my supplies with me. It is never far from my mind.
And when I realized that all of this was really working - that I had developed these habits and that my routines were totally different than they had been in January, I decided to add some more habits to my life. I worked on washing my face consistently twice a day (I washed my face before this year obviously, but it was something I was far too willing to skip out on if I was running late in the morning or too tired at night) and drinking more water. I used apps to keep track of my progress (in a similar way to how I used Instagram to track my drawings and a handwritten list to track the books I had read) and have done well with keeping up with these habits as well - better than I had in any year previously.
This has completely changed the way that I think of myself and about goals. Like whoa. In a year, I gained a drawing habit, a large body of work (see my post on all of the things that happened for me when I started drawing daily), the knowledge and stories of over 25 books, lots of hydration, and clearer skin (seriously, ask me about my face wash). It is mind blowing to know that I did all of these things by just by adding something small to my routine each day. It makes me feel like I can now be a person who has a consistently clean room, or who exercises, or does anything that I want, instead of thinking that those things are just for people who have their shit together more than I do. I know how to make things happen now. It is incredible. Let ignore the fact that I really did know all this all along, I just didn't really, truly, put it into practice until this year.