This is an interesting one; it’s not exactly on the handmade topic. But, it is a question any handmade entrepreneur will undoubtedly ask himself or herself at one time. Am I living the life I want or am I living to someone else’s expectations? It is usually the result of someone’s seemingly innocent comment on how your business maybe travelling or the most dreaded question of them all…
“What do you do?”
Then sometimes your honest and enthusiastic response can be met with a dubious facial expression.
This concept is something I think everyone battles with at some stage in their lives. It was raised in this wonderful TED talk by Alain De Botton, if you are not familiar with his work. I highly suggest investing a little bit of time into discovering the knowledge, experience and view’s he has to offer. Eye opening. Video Link for your viewing pleasure :)
The whole thing got me thinking in relation to work as a maker. As you try to establish yourself outside the normal and expected framework of a 9 to 5 job, you face a myriad of challenges you do not have to face if you have a ‘normal’ job or pursuit.
The amount of introspection time can at times be liberating but if not controlled, damaging. You can constantly question yourself, whether you are in fact being foolish for pursuing your dream, is your craft a valid option and whether you can reach your goals or will the shadows of doubt become too heavy to bear and you succumb to the self imposed pressure.
I think it goes back to what Alain says, “We should make sure we truly are the authors of our own ambitions”, this is so crucial in being a maker or entrepreneur. But actioning this is another thing altogether.
The fact is, often we sink into living up to other peoples expectations in life rather than our own. To pursue your craft, you are actually bucking the trend. But, that’s where the conflict lies, between what you have been told success is and your own definition of success, happiness and self worth. Often, as I have found they are constantly in conflict with one another.
So, how does one manage it?
First, I think by recognising the fact that there is a pressure, wherever it has come from and understanding it is real. Deluding yourself to the fact that it does not exist is just out right denial. Once you have accepted that this pressure exists, then its time to adjust your attitude towards it. If you are having a bad day whilst pursuing your business or your craft, you need to understand that it is not a reflection of your ability or how the overall picture is forming. It is merely a bad day. It is easy to dive down a rabbit hole in these moments. A little perspective is always needed, in times like these. I have a routine to get out of them, I put on some obscenely loud music and walk at pace for about 20 minutes. This seems to shake off the negative self talk and gain a little perspective on the days troubles. So, ensure you maintain perspective and find a method that works for you to do just that. Remember, your life, is yours alone, so maintain the strength to live to it.
Second, we are taught at an early age and it is embedded into our beings, that we are always in competition and are taught to constantly compare. Even if you don’t think you do this, you do. You experienced it all throughout your formative years. The whole education system is based upon comparison. It is engrained into you. So, how do you manage this? Again, it comes back to simply being aware that this is part of life. But, when it comes to business. It is important to know that even the most successful people have been exactly where you are right now. You maybe on the rise, you maybe static, you maybe falling, you may be coasting a long. Comparison has no place. To remove comparison, I think the best way is to be mindful to what you are actually focusing on; this is disciplining the mind to see the importance of small wins. Break your goal down into, small steps, daily tasks, and hourly tasks. Make this your only concern, nothing else. Completing your small tasks, will inevitably add up to the big picture result. Do not even concern yourself with the result of your efforts; concern yourself with the tasks, that is all. If you meet your tasks day in day out, the results will naturally flow. Don’t believe me….well give it a shot and see how you go.
All in all, to go against the grain of imposed expectations will be testing at times. To make it easier on yourself, first give yourself room to gain perspective in frustrating moments and second remove comparison by adjusting your focus on being present. The rest will take care of itself.
Above all, be true to yourself in the process, your business goals and what you value as a person. The level of fulfilment you will gain from pursuing a creative life is unparalleled, and the fulfilment will come from the journey itself.
Written by The Hunting Handmade “Thinker”