My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Following my resolutions, I decide to take a “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” course.

RightsideMy happiness resolutions include “Follow my curiosities,” “Push myself,” “Show up,” “Spend money to further my goals,” “Enjoy the fun of failure,” and “Take time for mini-adventures.”

It’s not always easy to see how to transform these resolutions from abstract ideas, typed in my notes, into actions in my real life.

This week, however, I am. I’m taking an intensive, 9:30-5:30, five-day class, on Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Yesterday, today, and for three more days, I head down to Soho each morning instead of sitting down in front of my computer.

I was partly inspired by Daniel Pink’s account of taking the class in his terrific book, A Whole New Mind. He includes pictures of the self-portrait he drew before receiving any instruction, and the self-portrait he drew at the end of five days. The leap in execution was astonishing.

I have no art training and no skills. Nevertheless, I’ve always had an interest in art that I’ve somehow never found a way to tap. The promise of learning how to draw – and really, how to be able to see better – was enormously attractive.

When I read things that interest me, I always feel a compulsion to…process them. I have an urge to take notes, to clip articles, to manipulate information and ideas. I feel the same way when I see something beautiful or interesting, but I don’t have any tools with which to tackle that kind of material. I’d love to be able to make a sketch or some kind of record.

Now, you might say, “Just have fun with it! Do your best, it doesn’t have to be good!” But the fact is, it’s not much fun to make a very bad sketch. It’s frustrating, and not enjoyable to look back at later.

Happiness research shows the people get a big boost from learning new skills, and also from novel experiences; as the research would predict, the drawing class (so far, at least) has been tremendously fun and valuable.

Unfortunately, when you’re feeling blue, it’s easy to feel too overwhelmed and dispirited to make the effort to try something new. It seems difficult, exhausting – even making the arrangements seem too hard. So it’s hard to take a step that, if you could manage it, would give you a boost.

And this class is hard. During the class, I felt intimidated, defensive, hostile, and frustrated. I’ve been exhausted when I come home, and my back hurts.

Yet it’s also tremendously gratifying to learn something new – that’s the “atmosphere of growth” so important to happiness. It’s fun to have a break from my usual routine, and even to be in a different part of the city at a different time of day. It’s nice to meet some new people.

Plus – my goodness – I drew my hand! I drew a chair that actually looked like a chair! I still can’t quite believe it.

Pollyanna Week continues. It’s such a useful exercise. I’m absolutely astonished by a) how hard it is to remember to refrain from criticism, nagging, complaints, etc., and b) the huge percentage of my conversation which consists of criticism, nagging, complaints, etc. I haven’t been able to wear my orange reminder bracelet, because of the drawing class (it gets in my way), but have been trying to stick to the goals. It’s more challenging than it sounds.