Mindset Shifts for a Creative Life.
“It’s like being a unicorn in a field of brown horses.”
I remember towards the end of my career in finance I felt stuck all the time. What had started as an exciting opportunity had changed over the years, and by the end of it I felt burnt out by the hustle of the industry. I got into finance because I thought it would give me the ability to earn a higher income so that I could have more time for my family and my art. However, as more years went on, I discovered that the expectation of hustling and committing all my time towards my career was the opposite of the creative lifestyle I wished to have.
After a particularly frustrating day, I looked at my husband and blurted it out: “I feel like a unicorn in a field of brown horses, and all I am ever told is how to look, act, and be like a horse. But I am not a horse.” This is the nature of the Unicorn Dilemma – how do we, as creatives, craft our own success in a world where the rules seem to favour something else entirely?
If you’ve ever questioned your desires to live a creative life, know you are not alone. I’ve been there, and I’ve felt the doubt, raised the questions, and been stung by the lack of support before. It can be difficult moving forward, but one thing I have discovered is that a few shifts in mindset can make all the difference.
Art is important.
I’ve beaten myself up for wanting things before, and it is extra easy to berate our desires when we ourselves view them as silly. If you are telling yourself that your own creativity should take a back-burner to other obligations, it may be time for a reframe. An art practice is a great way to lower stress, process tricky emotions (read about the time I wrote my way through a difficult period in my life here), and re-calibrate our ability to focus for longer stretches of time. Personally I am way less irritable when I engage with my creativity regularly.
Art is also important to our society. It makes us think and connects us to our human experience. I’m sure you’ve resonated with a work in the past, whether it was a knitted blanket, an illustration, a film, or a photograph. Besides making us think, art is a vessel for cultures and history. Even work that doesn’t have a big message behind it, but is there merely to help us escape or find beauty has its place. Think about it – life would be a lot more stressful and dreary if we didn’t have things around us that we could find joy in. When you look at creativity from this perspective, and then recognize the value that these works bring, it is a lot easier to validate our own desire to make things.
It’s okay to want what you want.
The older I get, the more I realize that I only have one life on this planet, and it is a life I want to enjoy. When I was coming to the tail end of my finance career, I had to face the reality that just because what I was doing had value, it didn’t mean I should continue when the work was making me unhappy. We all have responsibilities in this life which need to be addressed, but we also have the power of choice. As soon as I faced the way I felt, I was empowered to move back towards my creativity and leave the career I no longer found satisfying. Was it terrifying? Of course. Did the transition take longer than I had planned for? Of course. Yet, by the end of it, I was doing something that honoured my gifts, brought me joy, and aligned with my values and the life I wanted to live.
It is okay to want what you want. If you’ve been struggling with this, know that it is alright to desire something that is different from what you have been told you should want. It is also fine if your wants change over time. There is no right or wrong to this, but there is a huge amount of worth in standing up for what you value and believe in. Life is too short to have regrets, and it is important to honour the way we wish to be in the world. Choose what you want that to look like for you. For me, this was finding a way to utilize my creativity as a way to support my family. For you, it might look different, and that is okay too.
Making these mindset shifts made my transition out of finance a lot simpler. It’s easier to choose creativity when you see its value. It’s easier to commit to a choice when you know it’s okay to want the things you want, and recognize that those desires are allowed to morph and change over time. Working through both of these made all the difference for me, and hopefully they will help you on your journey as well.
Cheers to the creative life!