We work in creative jobs. We’re expected to be creative and come up with the best idea for a project we have been tasked with. We want to look competent and worth our salary. You strive for this perfection with the hopes that one day your team will be chanting your name in the streets waving banners of your most famous epiphany-infused meeting remarks. The problem with that, which we all (hopefully) realize, is that being a genius is not sustainable. We fail, a lot. Being good enough is frustratingly fleeting, not easily achievable, and basically impossible.
The trouble is we typically work in environments where we’re told “Great job on that project! It turned out great, you’re a genius!” That feels good in the moment, and your brain will start to crave that praise, and when you don’t get it, you’ll start to feel like a failure, even when you’re not. When things do fail, we’re told “the process was the problem,” but how can we be the reason when a project goes great, but not when it goes wrong? We have to be consistent, we must come up with a praiseworthy process, because we’re humans, we’ll get it wrong, and we are never going to feel good enough. Measuring your success by being better than your peers will almost always end in frustration. Let’s change that.
Instead of striving to be good, let’s strive to be getting better. Stop striving to be better than the person to your right or left and try to be better than you were yesterday, or a week ago, or a year ago. Let’s stop trying to prove ourselves worthy, and start striving to be always improving. Let’s stop wishing we had skills, and move toward developing them.
This pursuit of a praiseworthy process is the mindset that will transform your desire for improvement to a process in pursuit of it. Reframe your goals in a way that supports this measurability. Don’t say, “I want to be a great illustrator” but instead say, “I want to improve my illustration skills.” “I want to master the art of communicating my ideas” becomes “I want to learn how to become great at communicating my ideas.” One is much more achievable, and incrementally measurable whereas, the former you may never achieve zen-like ability at, but that’s ok.
Don’t compare yourself to someone else, compare yourself to the previous version of yourself. It’s a mindset change, a shift in thinking, but one that will result in a much greater level of satisfaction and constant improvement in your craft. It’s an investment that takes time, but ultimately it’s worth everything you put toward it.
You may think you can’t afford to focus on getting better, but you can’t afford not to.
— Heidi Grant Halvorson: The Incredible Benefits of a “Get Better” Mindset