Clarity on the Steps Forward
How are you doing with your New Year's resolutions? It's the end of February and if the empty parking lot over at my rec center is any indication, most people have given up and moved on. Every December, I get a new planner and start making plans, but this year, no resolutions! I was hit with a new word that I have had trouble discerning the meaning for--the word "intentions." I couldn't figure out the difference between an intention and a goal and a resolution. The dictionary was no help since the definitions of these words are nearly the same.
With the help of Nicholas Wilton, artist and owner of Art2Life.com, I was able to get a little clarity. A goal, he says, is a result you desire. It is set in the future, and it is either achieved or not. So, for example, lose 20 lbs, or sell ten paintings, or hike the Camino, are all goals. Because it is set in the future, something over which we have no control, it can be pretty disappointing when circumstances get in our way of achieving said goal. Who could have predicted all the unachieved goals of 2020?
An intention, on the other hand, he further explains, is set in the present and is an aim or plan. It is something you revisit every day and reminds you why you're doing what you're doing. It motivates you toward a purpose you've set for yourself. Intentions give you a direction when you face the blank page or canvas each day. An intention might be to live a healthy lifestyle, or to paint freer, or to explore the pigment Opera Pink. They sound a little more open and maybe even a little nebulous. That's where habits enter.
A habit supports your intentions and shows you the next step toward your establishing your intention. So if exploring Opera Pink is your intention, you might set a habit of putting out the fresh pink pigment in your palette each morning. Wilton says to help himself paint freer, he set himself a habit of starting each painting session with just twenty minutes of exploration. If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, perhaps you set a habit of walking 250 more steps than you did the day before for a month or two, or eliminating sugar for six weeks. The habits answer the question, "How do get to my intention?" An intention may require several new habits (both walking more and eliminating the sugar!), so you'll need to plan the steps required to achieve your intention. "But how," you might ask, "do you even get started?"
Wilton explains that challenges are what kick-start habits. Challenges are short stints of practicing a particular habit. They're not necessarily sustainable, and they might just serve
as a trial run, but they let you dive into a specific practice deep and fast. So, this month all over Instagram you'll see artists posting their #100daysproject. You might try that with Opera Pink used in some work for 100 days. Other people will do a cleanse or a fast (Lent began just this week!) for a period of time. The various fitness apps offer lots of challenges to establish a new fitness habit. He says experts recommend you give a habit forty-five days to become established, so you might set your challenges for that length of time.
All of these, goals, intentions, habits and challenges, are what make up a practice of something. I can see now how setting an intention to live a healthy lifestyle is much more achievable with fresh habits, whether or not one loses 20 lbs. For myself, I've set several intentions for joy in my art making. I've set habits like journaling, coaching, sharing my work, all toward that end. Finally, I gave myself a challenge by enrolling in Nicholas Wilton's Creative Visionary Program again. I completed it back in 2019 and learned a lot, but it is a rich program and I need to revisit it. So, intentions, some habits to support them, and a challenge to kick-start it all and I have clarity in the steps forward.
I hope this helps you get on track if your New Year's resolutions have fizzled. If you'd like to know more about the Creative Visionary Program for 2021, please ask me. I've linked it so you can see what it is all about. The free workshop will remain open for a few days, so there is still time to see if it is a fit for you.