Nov 18, 2014 Design + Creative

Realize Your Passions: The First Step In Bridging the Work/Life Gap of the Creative

Welcome to the second piece in our journey on Keeping Creative Passions Alive! In our last installment, I introduced this series and the purpose behind it. Creatives live in a paradoxical world. They need to have the time and space to create new ideas and things, but, at the same time, work for companies that aren’t set up to encourage and enhance the creative process. This, at times, can make a creative feel like they are living a less than awesome life. So I promised a roadmap to better bridge this gap to help you live a more awesome life. Let’s kick this off!

This Sounds like Magic
Before we proceed, I want assure you that I’m not speaking about finding success in hypothetical terms. I speak from my own life experiences. Have I found the secret that will keep you loving both your creative work life and your creative life life? Yes, I have. Am I still working on my own path to creative “enlightenment”? Yes, I am. What I’ll be sharing is not a one-stop shop to end all your troubles, but a process for you to continuously bridge the work/life gap. Not making any sense? No worries, it will soon.

Taking the First Step
Let’s talk about the first step towards balancing work and life and keeping our creative passions alive: Realizing your passions.

Yes, this is the first step – although the current mentality of the creative world is somewhat split. There are many of us out there who know they are creative, but as empathetic and as in tune with emotions as they are, they aren’t always confident in their actual passions. What does really spark that fire, that blood rush, in you? Is it painting, long talks about the American Civil War, or maybe cheeseburgers? This is the camp that I started in (no, not cheeseburgers). I knew I was creative, but I really didn’t know what drove or inspired me to create.

On the flip side, there are creatives who know they are passionate and know what they are passionate about. Many times these people, desperate to keep their creative passions alive, either aren’t able to successfully integrate these passions into their daily lives, or they think that these passions are what inspire them, but yet, somehow they still aren’t happy (or inspired). Essentially, they are lying to themselves about their passions.

Either way, I would argue that many creatives aren’t fully aware of the depth or motivation behind their passions. We don’t know what drives us, or we know what drives us but don’t know why, or we know what drives us but don’t let those things take the wheel. This division of creative mentalities can cause some pretty big problems.

Seeing What’s Holding You Back
The first problem in this current state, no matter which camp you are in, is a lack of awareness of our passions. If this is the case, you certainly cannot act on them. That means that you are putting your creative talents into something else besides what truly inspires you.

This leads to a second problem. By not being as fulfilled or happy as you could be with your creative work, you are less content in your life. Not being aware of your passions means you are living or working without them. Therefore, you aren’t utilizing your potential, bringing that empty feeling inside when you ask yourself “What am I doing at this pointless job anyway?” or “Why do I work for this jerk in the first place?” Deep down, you KNOW you don’t need to be living a disgruntled life, but you chose this path anyway.

Third, and possibly the most important, problem: If you aren’t aware of what your passions are and why they are what they are, then you won’t be able to use them to help you bridge the work/life gap. This is the bouncer stopping you at the door to the Happy Life Club.

So, how do you find out what you are really passionate about and why?

Realizing Your Passions
First things first, increase your self-awareness. Ok, fair warning; this is going to sound very hippie and new age-y, but it works. Trust me. Your first step is to be more aware about your life overall, what you think, what you feel, what sparks your thoughts and feelings, and what other people around you are doing. In short, start paying attention to yourself. There are many ways you can do this. Some people go so far as to research and start a meditation practice. Another way to is to simply start to question everything you do, feel, think, and say. I don’t mean that you should question yourself in a negative, judgmental way, but, instead, just observe what you think, do, feel, or say. Whenever you can, ask yourself: “Why did I do that?” “Why do I enjoy this movie?” “What is that tingle in my leg? Why does it itch?” “What is it that I love about cheeseburgers? Is it the cheesy texture? Is it the bun?” It’s very important to answer to yourself as honestly as possible. The best part is… these answers can’t be wrong because they are yours!

Also, you’ll want to become more aware of what others do and say. Begin to really listen when people speak to you and not just focus on your own response. Remember, the goal is not to judge or analyze: it is to simply observe.

As you increase your awareness, the second step is to focus on realizing those passions. Observe and notice when something (or someone) sparks that fire inside of you. That is a passion blossoming. Take notice of it, ask yourself why you think that you may be passionate about it, and answer (notice a theme?). You’ll want to do this not just in your work, but in your home, when you’re out with friends, whenever and wherever you can. Remember, you can’t fail at this one!

The third step is about turning these observations and passions into ideas. Mona Patel, Owner and Founder of Motivate Design, has a great exercise for realizing the potential of ideas that she calls “The What If Technique”. Her company uses this technique to spark innovation and push differentiation. I have utilized it to start with a proposed passion or idea that is interesting to me. I take the time to write “What if” statements about how I might turn that idea into something I can do in my daily life (work or home life). Then, I rinse and repeat. The point is not to make a passion into your career (yet), the point is to stop limiting yourself with statements like “No one will hire me to do that,” or “Too bad I can’t do that full time.” Instead, you need to exercise your brain muscle to think outside of the box that has been created for you.

Lastly, you want to go through all of these steps all the time. This is how you keep a pulse on what you are passionate about and why.

What If I’m Wrong?
Now, I realize what you may be thinking. “Lis, what if I’m wrong?!” “What if my passions change?” “What if these passions aren’t part of what I already do creatively?” I encourage you to not worry. First off, you cannot be wrong! This is your life, remember? There is neither judge nor jury. Secondly, if your passions change and you notice the change… Well, that is the point! Passions will change. This isn’t about keeping passions, it’s about keeping passions alive, and part of this is realizing that you are an organism that changes, and so will what drives you. If these newfound passions aren’t currently a part of what you do creatively, perhaps it’s time to start a hobby or side project to further enrich your life.

Changing Your Creative Life for the Better
Realizing your passions will have a profound effect on your creative life. You will have a clearer understanding of what you are passionate about and why. From this, you can and will act on these passions, better sync’ing up your work with your life. As you get to know yourself better, you will feel more fulfilled and overall happier!. No more mysterious unknown creature ruling over you (or at least you’ve made that creature way smaller)! Which means your creative work will get better. And, best of all, you can start building the bridge between your creative work self and your creative life self. Think of it this way: What’s the worst that can happen? You annoy yourself with questions about why you do things… surely that can’t be that bad. As you go along this path, rest assured that you will do more with these realizations that just brainstorm random ideas.

In our next piece, we’ll talk about the importance of knowing how to redefine success so that you can use your passions to proceed down the corridor of the real world.

In the meantime, have fun figuring out what you are passionate about, or if you decide not to try doing so, at least ask yourself, “why not?”

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