Dec 23, 2014 Design + Creative

Keeping Creative Passions Alive: Redefining Success

Now that we know more about what moves and inspires us, we can continue on our path to success. Before we do that, however, let me ask you this…

What is success, really?

Success As We Know It
When you hear the word “success” or think of someone that is successful, what or whom, do you think of? Do you imagine someone in a power suit, making loads of money, and living in a penthouse on Park Avenue in NYC? Do you see a young, rich startup founder? Or do you think of someone you know (or have heard of) that isn’t necessarily rich, but is so content that you almost envy them (or that you really do envy them)?

These are popular ways of defining success. That success is all about acquiring material wealth, having financial security, or even acquiring a great deal of spiritual or emotional “wealth” and status. We associate success with accomplishment (whether we think of it as materially based or not), a place we want to eventually arrive. We say things like “If only I could win the lotto, then I’d be successful.” Or “If only I could land one big retainer client, then I’d be good to go.” Or “If only I could finish this last yoga training class, then I’ll feel like a success”.

Yet, to view success as materialistic or escape-driven not only causes a great deal of issues, but it also acts as a barrier to bridge the work/life gap.

The Problems with Success
First things first. When we view success as acquiring either material stuff or status (whether in the business, spiritual, emotional or personal realms), we are projecting success onto other things. Essentially, if we don’t feel the success from within, we rely on our titles, material goods, how our families and friends view us, the number of classes we’ve taken, credentials we’ve received, etc. We rely on these externalities to make us feel successful. This creates a vicious cycle as these feelings of success, since they are coming from outside of us, not inside, cannot last. As an example: Eventually, someone is going to create a new class that is better than the last class you took, and you will no longer feel successful. You will have to take the next class, and the next class, and the next class in order to feel accomplished again.

The same is true with work progress. You may feel accomplished if you reach the title of Lead Designer, but wait… now there is a Principal Designer title, and then an Executive Designer title. Lead Designer is no longer enough, and the cycle continues. Viewing your progress as an acquisition of titles leads to unsustainable happiness. This, in turn, causes anxiety, grief, overwhelming negative emotions, and an overall lack of confidence − All things that can turn anyone’s career south quick! If success is coming from the outside, it’s probably not linked up with your passions and how you really see success, deep down inside. This means that you get distracted from doing what you love because you are busy chasing a different version of success, adding more discontent to your life.

Secondly, the problem with viewing success as a destination remains that we don’t see the forest through the trees. We keep looking ahead instead of seeing where we are and appreciating what we have. This is another cause for anxiety and sadness. By not appreciating what you have. This is a recipe for disaster, yet it’s how many of us have been told to view achievement all our lives.

Thirdly, if we see success as either of these things, and our views of success are not our own but those of the work system that we have been a part of all these years, we can never bridge the work/life gap. Why? Because in order to bridge that gap, you have to view success as both a work thing and a life thing.

So, what is a creative to do?! How can we stop the cycle, find life and work success, and finally feel the benefits of real success? The answer is simple: We need to redefine the meaning of success for ourselves.

Redefining Success
Redefining success isn’t as hard as it sounds. The first step is to remember that this is your definition of success. Let go of societal definitions and think about what it really means for you (Just a hint: It may have something to do with all of those passions you’ve realized.)

Next, realize that success does not equal acquisition. Start to think of ways to fuel success from within. This is not impossible as I have seen myself and others think this way. At a recent networking dinner, I asked everyone to talk about how they define success. Almost everyone talked about success as something internal. For example, I heard things like “being able to wake up and be excited for the day”, “being passionate about the work I do”, and “doing work that matters and makes other people’s lives better”. These people worked to define success from both their work and life standpoint, and, more importantly, they worked to define success how they saw it.

Upon realizing that success needs to be defined from within, you will understand that success is not a destination but a journey. It’s not a gigantic event that happens and saves the day. Look at the path that led you to where you are now and break up the steps you’ve taken to recognize that each and every one of them is a success. Why? Well, because each step helped you get to where you are today. From this moment forward, you can begin to recognize all the tiny success stories in your daily life. More importantly, see the success of being on your life journey. You are a creative, you’ve started to realize your passions, you’re on the path, and since it’s your path, it can’t be wrong!

Finally, make sure to also define success as life success. Try and define your personal progress in a way that means your being content and happy in the end.

The New, Successful You
The results can be amazing. Great self-confidence will emerge quickly while that entire imposter syndrome will melt away, bit by bit. Remember, it’s not about the final destination. Each step you take is a step forward, and each step forward is a success.

This, in turn, will keep you highly motivated because success will no longer appear unattainable. It’s no longer like Mount Doom hovering in the distance waiting to consume you with the small chance that you’ll throw the ring into the fire. Instead, it’s right there with you, always.

Eventually, both happiness and contentment levels will change. You’re not doomed for failure so you can begin to see your way forward. Bridging the work/life gap will not only seem possible, but your work will get better and better. Why? Because it will be more inspired, more filled with passion, and will more accurately reflect its maker.

Without a change in perspective, we find ourselves lost in a spinning wheel of anxiety. Instead, try and redefine success for yourself and realize you are already on a successful journey towards bridging your work/life worlds.


About the Author Lis Hubert is a New York City-based independent information architecture and user experience consultant whose present & past clients include ESPN Mobile, espnW, Viacom Media Networks, and NewsCorp. She has spoken at conferences around the world on topics ranging from user experience to independent consulting, and is also a frequent contributor to the UX community’s knowledge base, writing for publications such as UX Matters and teaching industry classes for resources such as More by this Author