I believe when you change one thing — one habit, your whole life changes. A domino effect, everything else shifts to meet the new habit.
This is my personal “happiness” project. Do you have something in mind for yourself? It can be anything, like learning something new everyday and writing a sentence about it. Reusing something you have to make something new. Or a letter a day to all the people you’ve loved in your life. Here are some things to consider as you narrow down your ideas and consider this powerful commitment.
1. Think about what’s missing in your life. What do you think you need to put off until you have more time? What do you daydream about that pains you not to be doing now? Consider that you don’t have to put it off. Just consider it. Don’t make plans yet or think about how. I did this for a few days. The “how” came naturally after that.
2. Is there one routine you do everyday that isn’t helping your life? Swap it. For me, I had a daily habit of reading and writing every morning in the first hour of the day. My journals had become anxiety sponges. I decided to get up, make coffee and go straight away to the studio. Huge energy burst immediately with this change. Not thinking about time amounts yet. Just thinking about activities. Edit out the ‘filler’ things in your day. Challenge their meaning in the big picture. Consider swapping the time for your ‘personal happiness project
3. Be happy not perfect. Enjoy! Remember, be happy not perfect. I don’t like many of these paintings posted. But I have a year to practice. That in itself makes me happy.
4. Who is rooting for you? Have a few private conversations with people who support your happiness. Tell them your thoughts. Example: “I really miss playing the flute. It’s been 20 years, but I felt really happy when I played. I don’t know where this is going, but if I played it for even 10 minutes a day, I would have that sound in my head again. That would make me happy.”
5. If you were not to miss a day in your commitment, what is the amount of time you could commit? This has been the most powerful part of this project for me. My rule is, never miss a day. I know that I will back into bad habits if I allow ‘missed days’ — excuses have a way of sneaking back in. If I get really sick or I’m in a car accident, I will make it up later. But 365 paintings in a year is the goal.
Yours might be different. You might decide 6 months, 10 minutes a day. Case example: You have dreams of opening a cupcake shop. Would a 6 months or a year of recipe development help it’s success? Hell ya, it would. Would 10 minutes a day of ideas, research or stocking the shelves with ingredients fuel opening day excitement? Yes!
6. Public or Private? My friend Kris in Colorado creates 365 earrings in 2012. She never missed a day. She wrote notes everyday. She kept her project private. She’s extraordinary. Me? Changing habits is very challenging for me. So I added in the rule of accountability. I created a subscription base and blog my paintings daily. When the excuse train comes in, it doesn’t matter, I have a commitment now to my subscribers above and beyond myself. And I never regret it. Even on the days I don’t feel like it. Consider who you are and how you’ve kept commitments to yourself in the past and make this decision ahead of time.
7. What are you creating? You might be creating something in the arts. But you might be creating something personal. More intimacy with your significant other. More time for yourself to simply daydream or walk and think. Time to research and make travel plans with the full spectrum of thought and resources. Time to add beauty to your home. Make an indoor garden and tend it. Notice the “What Are You Creating?” is coming in on this list at number 7. There’s a reason for that. It barely matters what. What matters is the daily attention no matter what.
8. Choose your time amount and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be for a year and it might only be 5-10 minutes per day. Julia Cameron wrote a novel at stoplights for months. These few moments were all she had between work and child rearing. I run a business and write books. My time limit tops for concept-ing, drawing, painting, posting, writing is 1 hour. I knew that if the project started taking over my life, exhausting me, I would stop. Use a timer and find the right time amount for you.
9. Practice before you launch. It might feel awkward at first. For example, the flutist mentioned in an earlier example. What if she is a bit shy? Where will she practice? Does she need to buy a flute or will she pull her dusty one out of the garage? Does it need repair? Can she blow into it for 30 seconds a day for a week before launching? Set up and practice is SO important. I would have choked if not for the practice sets. I practiced in all states of mind. I found that no matter what, painting always energized any mood.
10. Set low expectations and celebrate often. Keep your expectations low and give yourself many pats on the back along the way. My goal was to feel a bit more joy in my day. I had been serving just about everyone and everything else but myself. I needed daily expression and to turn some attention to personal time doing something I love. I also had a background goal of practice and learning new illustration skills to make my children’s books that much better. These goals were satisfied within the first month. I knew I had made the right commitment from the first week. And it’s growing. Even if I lost all subscribers and sales tomorrow, I would joyfully continue. It’s now a part of my day that I can’t do without. It’s also changing other decisions and choices for the better. Because once you get a dose of daily happiness you can’t help but want your whole live to be that way.
Enjoy! Remember, be happy not perfect. I don’t like many of these paintings posted. But I have a year to practice. That in itself makes me happy. Also, if you go forward with something and blog it, send me your link. I have a special celebration spot on my sidebar for you.
This article has been expanded and published at Skinny Artist Magazine