I recently had a conversation with a friend about goals and accountability, which got me thinking about the importance of community, especially when we’re trying to build and maintain a habit.
Ask anyone who’s ever rung in a new year with a shiny new resolution how long they were able to stick to their resolution and most will tell you they couldn’t last beyond the second week of February.
In fact, studies show most people don’t even make it to February before they give up, with the average person throwing in the towel before the second Friday in January (deemed ‘Quitter’s Day’, wouldn’t you know it?).
So, how do you set yourself up for success when you have a goal worth pursuing but know the odds are stacked against you? Community might be the missing ingredient you need to help you make your habits stick.
Find your people.
It’s one thing to commit to something and have a solid reason to start, but there’s another element of successful habit formation that many of us overlook, and that’s the importance of community.
When I first began drawing, I struggled to make it a habit. I hadn’t yet discovered how the practice could be beneficial to me, so I didn’t have a clear reason to devote myself to it wholeheartedly.
Once I dialed in why developing a drawing practice was important to me (more about that here), it became easier to motivate myself to draw more frequently, but even then, I still felt like something was missing.
It wasn’t until I began participating in a creative community online that I noticed how helpful it was to become a member of a group who shared my goals. As an introvert, I tend to gravitate away from groups, and initially, I was quite shy about sharing my art as I’m not nearly as skilled as I’d like to be. When I saw how genuine my fellow community members were about the process of making art over the final product, I felt accepted and was encouraged to contribute, which helped me engage in a completely different way.
Drawing in – and sharing within – a community has expanded my support system. Just as I want to help others keep going, I know there are others who share my goals and are likewise cheering me on.
Community helps keep us accountable.
Finding the strength to keep going can be big challenge, especially when we feel we’re doing so alone.
When we’re flying solo and find ourselves slipping into a rut, our accountability system is only as good as how strong we feel on any given day. When we work with a buddy or community, however, we have others to nudge us along and help keep us going when we feel like giving up.
A buddy can help drive accountability because they can add positive pressure when we’re in a slump. One example of this was demonstrated during a 2018 North Carolina State University study of 704 people enrolled in a 15-week online weight-loss program. The study found that participants who had buddies lost more weight than those participants who took the course without a buddy’s support.
Community helps keep people engaged longer and motivates us to keep going. Communities can also be downright inspiring. (My favorites are John Muir Laws’ classes, The Nature Journal Club, and the Sketchbook Skool community.)
Communities come in many forms.
I began drawing at the very beginning of the pandemic, when opportunities for connection were in a state of flux. Thanks to Zoom meetings and virtual hangouts, I’ve been able to participate in art communities online with amazing people from around the globe and be able to do so in a way that works well for my own personal, more introverted style
Communities can be anything, really, just so long as you share some common goal. Online groups, local gatherings, virtual hangouts...you name it. If you’re looking for an accountability buddy, you might find someone in one of these communities who’s also in search of a buddy of their own. Don’t forget friends, family members, and co-workers, who might also share your goal and want to come along for the ride. You never know...maybe they’ve also been secretly pining to start and just needed a nudge.