Why Artists Fail at New Year’s Resolutions

Artwork Archive | December 11, 2017 (Updated April 12, 2021)

Why do artists fail at New Year’s resolutions?

And not just artists, but everyone? It’s not because we are weak or self-sabotaging — though sometimes it can feel that way.

The problem is we usually approach our goals all wrong.

First, we tend to make resolutions that are way too broad. When there’s no clear path to take action, it’s overwhelming. The larger we make our goals, the more insurmountable they seem. 

This often leads to abandoning these large goals altogether, because we start to believe that trying would inevitably lead to failure. And, who wants their life's resume to be spotted with failure? Continuing to live with our problems surely sounds easier than that.

What a nifty little trick we play on ourselves.

The other problem is that we make so many resolutions that we don’t even know where to begin. Either that or there’s not enough time in the day to keep up with all of them. And once some resolutions start dropping, the rest fall like dominoes.

But not all hope is lost. You can keep your resolutions and improve your year ahead! Here are some proven ways to stick with it.


There is such a thing as choosing the “right” resolution.

If you are looking for a sure-fire way to fail, pick a resolution simply because you think you’re supposed to make it.

Instead, truly reflect on what you think needs to be accomplished or improved on in the year to come—and be honest with yourself. Try to think of something that would actually make your life better.

Choosing something you’re instantly motivated by will make it easier to stick with, as opposed to doing something just because other people expect you to or because it’s that time of year.


Choose the big one (or two).

After asking yourself what you need to work on the most, make sure you only devote yourself to those one or two things.

Remember, too many resolutions can be overwhelming. Smaller things will probably get taken care of naturally if you put them on the to-do list, so skip grouping them in with your resolutions.

Sometimes a label makes all the difference in your mind.

And at this point, it’s okay to be broad in your resolution-making when picking an area of your life or self that needs to be improved. Just don’t stop there.


Understand how to achieve them.

What are you most excited to work on—getting organized, self-improvement, your art business, health and happiness, or money affairs?

These are all great things to tackle, but see how general they are?

Any effective goal-setter will tell you that the key to success is to take your broad, idealistic goal and break it down into smaller, achievable steps.

For instance, say you want to get organized. Think about which actions will help you reach that end goal: tackling an inventory project, doing a deep clean of your studio once a month, updating your calendar more regularly.

If you’re focusing on self-improvement, you may want to actively give up things like the “not enough” mind frame or comparing yourself to other artists. To get started, try these tactics for embracing your weaknesses.

Want to grow your art business? Resolve to read at least three articles a week to become more knowledgeable. You could even plan to enter more juried shows, gather client names for an email list, or develop a marketing calendar.

The possibilities are endless, but you have to start somewhere.



Hold yourself accountable.

You know what they say—out of sight, out of mind. That’s why experts suggest physically writing down your resolution and placing it in a spot in your studio or home where you will see it every single day. Life happens, and people get busy. Having a visual reminder will keep your resolutions top of mind.

Then, tell your family and friends what the plan is. Knowing they may ask you about your progress can be just the push you need to follow through, plus the more people you have on your side that can lend a hand, the better.

You can also hold yourself accountable by completing actions you won’t turn back on.

For example, if you’re ready to get organized, take the plunge by subscribing to Artwork Archive or buying some new storage options for your studio. If you’re focusing on your health, sign up for that weekly yoga class or buy a reusable water bottle. Cleaning up your finances? Make an appointment with a financial advisor or set up a direct deposit to a savings account.

With these plans already in motion, you’re more likely to take advantage of them.


Experts also agree on one thing: set a deadline.

When we call it a New Year’s resolution, that implies we are taking the entire year to do whatever it is we think will make our lives better … that’s a gigantic window of time to do anything, let alone goal-setting!

That’s twelve whole months filled with other work, activities, holidays, and things to get done. That means plenty of time for resolutions to get lost in translation.

The solution? Once you’ve broken down your resolution into smaller steps you need to take along the way, set a hard deadline for when you want each of them to be accomplished—even if it seems like a longshot.

Now, we know the phrase “set a deadline” can either leave artists shaking in their boots or with a smirk on their faces, knowing deep down that those dates can come and go without consequence. But that’s where the accountability comes back into play.

Because physically and mentally setting a deadline will put pressure on your ego and work ethic to see it through. Add in the pressure of family and friends knowing, plus future plans on the line, and it may be just the push you need to finally see your resolution through.


There will be highs and lows.

You know that feeling of excitement and relief that bubbles up when you successfully complete a project? Remember that and let it drive you to want to do more! Celebrating your accomplishments throughout the process actually helps you sustain momentum to the end.

On the other hand, you need to keep in mind that old habits die hard.

There will be good days and bad. Snooze buttons will be hit and deadlines will pass. But being too hard on yourself won’t do any good—it only gives you an excuse to quit altogether. So always keep this one thing in mind: tomorrow is a new day.

It doesn’t have to be January 1st to start fresh.


Ready to get started?

If you’re the kind of person whose resolutions never seem to stick, it’s okay! You probably just haven’t had the right tools for success.

Don’t get down about your past failures. Embrace this time of year when everyone is focusing on starting anew and imagine how amazing it will feel when you’ve changed your life, art, and business for the better.


Get a head start on your art business goals for 2019 by signing up for your free trial of Artwork Archive—a powerful organizing and productivity tool for artists.


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