Could Coloring a Doodle Help You Reach Big Goals?
Got goals? Maybe you’re looking to pay down debt or save for a house or car. Perhaps you’d like to lose or gain weight, or build good habits such as journaling and exercise. Or maybe you’re simply counting the days to a special event.
Whatever your vision, progress happens one step at a time. Or, as Amy Jones puts it, one swirl at a time.
Jones sells Creative Progress Maps: black-and-white drawings of connected swirls that people use to track progress toward big goals. The total picture represents the overall goal, and each swirl signifies one step toward achieving that goal. For every positive action, you fill a swirl—coloring your way to completion.
Jones’s creative solution sprung from her own problem. On five credit cards, she owed more than $26,000. Making minimum payments barely chipped away at the debt.
So Jones colored her way out of trouble. She used a Sharpie to draw a swirly doodle on canvas, then colored the design as she made payments.
“I chose for each swirl to represent $100, because it was easy to count,” said Jones. Every time she paid $100 toward her debt, she colored a swirl. In time, she filled 264 swirls, paid off her debt in half the time she expected and created a work of art.
Along the way, as she shared her progress with friends and social networks, Jones realized her idea could help others achieve goals. So she started a business called Map Your Progress. Through her online enterprise, Jones sells Creative Progress Maps like the doodle she used to motivate her own actions.
“You can track any measurable goal,” said Jones. “Just pick one that matters to you. Then, each time you complete a small action, color in a swirl on your map. You’ll start to see your progress in a tangible form that looks beautiful.”
Jones doesn’t claim this as an original idea. The concept emerged from a childhood memory.
“I grew up watching my mom use this approach when she was working toward sales incentive trips,” she said. As Jones’s mother made her numbers for recruiting and sales, she filled in shapes on a tracking sheet she kept in full view. “My mom won nearly every single trip.”
Once Creative Progress Maps hit the market, Jones began observing how people used them. She sees several patterns in the way people make progress—or don’t. “No matter what your goal or how committed you are to achieving it, something will happen to thwart you. It’s just how life is,” she said.
One woman bought a Creative Progress Map to build her writing habits. Her goal was ambitious: She would color a swirl for each day that she wrote 1,500 words. She made a strong start, but then her father became ill, and she took two weeks off to care for him. After that, she struggled to get back to writing. When she looked at the blank swirls on her map, she felt bad.
Jones stepped in and offered her client valuable advice: “Your map is not meant as evidence that you’re doing badly,” she told the woman. “Be kind to yourself. A swirl doesn’t have to be 1,500 words. It can be 15 words. Make each swirl something you can handle, not something that fills you with dread. Then move forward, one swirl at a time.”
Jones gives people permission to be imperfect—a lesson the self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist” is learning herself. She recently used a Creative Progress Map to foster a new habit: meditating daily. Many of the swirls are blank.
“When I don’t meditate on a day, I don’t color in that swirl,” she said. “Sometimes there are big chunks of uncolored swirls, because I had a really big thing happening. Part of me would love to see a perfect map. But that’s not real life.”
Jones sees her imperfect map as perfect representation of progress.
“I don’t shame myself for missing a day. I forgive myself and keep going.” She sees self-kindness as a big struggle for people striving to reach goals. She also finds that people have trouble mustering the courage to begin.
“Your goal might be something you’ve tried before,” she said. “Losing weight. Paying off credit cards. And now you have to believe again that you can do it. If you feel discouraged by that, you’re not alone.”
So Jones now offers support to customers through virtual “progress parties” to help them set and achieve goals. “Committing to committing takes courage,” she said. “You just have to start. Start before you’re ready. You don’t have to have the answers or know how it’s going to go. You just need to focus on the next achievable action, the next right step. Big things happen, one small swirl at a time.”