Your brain is beautiful. It registers far more than you're conscious of and it’s capable of some truly remarkable things. For all intents and purposes, your brain is you, but for some reason, it doesn’t always listen to you. Though you may tell it to do one thing, it might choose to do another. It’s not until you're conscious of this fact, and learn to maneuver the quirks of your brain, that you can fulfill the potential within you.
Your brain is driven mostly by automated behaviors – we call them habits. Small choices you make every day create a complex set of automations that you follow without much conscious thought. It seems like it’s for efficiency, but the truth is your brain is just lazy.
Your brain could care less about which habits are good or bad. It only wants to do what’s easiest and will give it the most satisfaction in the shortest possible time. You may know eating a dozen donuts in one sitting is a bad behavior or exercise is a good one, but it doesn’t change the fact that your mind will gravitate to easy automated patterns of action.
Your brain is effectively running on autopilot most of the time. It takes a monumental effort to develop a new habit like drawing everyday. Even something as simple as drawing for 30 minutes could get some pushback from your mind. Anything that’s not automatic causes your brain to do everything it can to make you stop and go back.
One of the most common questions I see in the artistic community is “How do you find the motivation to draw?”. This question comes in many forms, but the basic idea is that you’re unable to harness the energy you need to continue drawing. The artists that you look up to make it look easy – they draw and paint all day while you struggle to find the motivation.
Don’t rely on motivation. Your brain will sabotage you.
Drawing is a habit that you need to cultivate. If you try to tackle something that takes real effort, like drawing, it will fight you! Learn to exploit the brain’s quirks to accomplish your goals.
In 2014 I was struggling with exercise. I set a goal to complete a high-intensity workout for 30 minutes every weekday. When it was time to tackle my workout, I would avoid it. I would say things like “I’ll do it later” or “I’ll just make today my off day and make it up another day”. The few times that I did manage to exercise never lasted. I would either stop early, not give it my best effort, or quit the next day and build the motivation for another try.
It was around this time I found the blog of James Clear. He inspired me with the idea of 1% improvements, or as his future book would call it, atomic habits. The simple idea was to start small and gradually improve overtime. I was finally able to start exercising.
If your brain sees you trying to do something that will take effort, it will divert you to automated behaviors. Sneak up on it with small, repeated actions!
Drawing for 3 hours a day is an ambitious goal, but if you start at 3 hours after years of “not drawing” programmed into your brain, it’ll see the hard work coming from a mile away. Your brain will make your task feel impossible to start and shift you to something easy or automatic. This is when you start watching YouTube, check out the latest TikTok videos, or find a show to watch. It’s easy, automatic, and has a quick, satisfying reward.
Choose an action small enough that the brain says “I can do that”. Draw for 15 minutes. You can sneak up on your brain without it realizing your'e putting in effort.
Over time, your small repeatable action will turn into a habit. Now your brain is using drawing as an automatic process vs whatever bad habit you left behind. You can trick your brain into enjoying things that take effort simply by starting small.