Process over Product

From childhood onward, we’re constantly exposed to the phrase: “Practice makes perfect.” It becomes so easy to, with these three simple words, strive for perfection as a final product, repeating this mantra to ourselves, hoping that someday, after hours and hours of work, we’ll reach that pinnacle and attain the “perfect” status that we’ve been desperately practicing for. 

I’d like to consider a few alternatives to practicing for the sole purpose of attaining an idyllic standard or goal. Although yes, it is immensely satisfying to put the final touches on a piece of art, focusing too narrowly on the final product overshadows the joy to be found in the midst of the process. Practice does not necessarily make perfect; practice makes permanent. If you perpetually practice with tunnel vision, you’ll make this focus on the end destination a permanent habit. Where is the fulfillment in that?

Let’s instead shift our focus towards how we practice. Merriam-Webster defines the word “practice” as:
“to train by repeated exercises”
“to do often, customarily, or habitiually;”

Scientists assert that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. To practice painting, making it a habitual routine, you must dedicate a substantial amount of time and effort. That time and effort should be enjoyable, satisfying, and freeing, as you work towards making both the practice and the positive mindset permanent tenants of your artistic journey. Instead of dwelling on the perfection of the final outcome, we should live in the wonder of the journey, holding process higher than product.

Consider the elation experienced amongst parents as they watch their child learn how to walk. They laugh and celebrate the process as the infant wobbles on unstable legs, falls, crawls, lifts him or herself back up, and tries again. This process and practice is full of failure, triumph, satisfaction, and happiness. We should all bring these feelings forward into our painting journeys. Even the greatest painters wobble, fall, and pick themselves back up. Every process has its peaks and valleys, but as we learn and grow on our creative paths, we enjoy the practice instead of dwelling on the merit of the final product. 

My challenge for you is to, one week at a time, start forming a habit of approaching practice as a joyful process versus a means towards an end. Luxuriate in the steps along the way, and find the happiness in practice. I’m also here to help you along that path! Join me in my next online workshop series, and together we can build a habit of positive practice over this 8-week course. Enrollment opens soon!

Let’s continue to practice our joy together.