Sadly, there’s no substantive support linking Mark Twain to this statement, but it’s still a cool (and mildly unsettling) thought. It’s also a vital idea for those of us who are brave enough to try and make a living from our creative practice. At some point, we have decided to colour outside the lines, wander off the beaten track, and consign ourselves to an unpredictable fate. I’ve worked with literally thousands of creatives over the decades, and most of us are clever, well-educated, imaginative, and interesting. There are so many other things we could be doing with our professional lives, and yet here we are.
So why? Why are we pursuing our passion as our profession?
Understanding the why behind your professional practice is fundamental to a long-lasting career, but most of us are so busy managing our day-to-day activities and trying to keep afloat, we forget to focus on the why as often as we should. Knowing your why, and staying connected to it, will help you with everything—from finding a reason to get out of bed on the bad days, to making important decisions about your future, to directing your marketing and beyond.
Why isn’t just good for your soul, it’s good for business. Being able to articulate why your creative products or services exist in the world and how you add value to people’s lives, is critical in your relationship with clients, customers, sponsors, and funders. When you connect your practice, business or organisation to a purpose that helps people to engage with you in a genuine way, you begin to tell a story that moves them.
There’s no one right way to discover your why. It’s personal, subjective, and unpredictable. To help get you started, however, try asking yourself some of these questions:
• What did you want to be when you grew up?
• What inspired you to get started in your professional practice?
• How have things evolved since that time?
• What do you keep putting off, telling yourself you’ll do it when you retire or “have time”?
• What problem are you solving with your work?
• What’s unique about you and your work?
• What inspires you?
You may not know the answers right now—and that’s OK, but these are questions worth thinking about and they deserve some of your precious time. Even if you’ve just started out, take stock of your creative voyage so far. Pat yourself for the back for how you’ve progressed, and get excited about where you might be able to go. Don’t let a week go by without looking back on all that you’ve accomplished. The more you do, the more positive you’ll feel about your future.
Developing and maintaining your why is the compass that will keep you heading in the right direction, even if your future is uncertain. It’s a positive mindset that will help you nimbly navigate the world as it keeps evolving, and remind you to make choices that are true to you and the type of impact you want to make.
And if you have no idea about your why? That’s OK too. Being lost is a challenging but anticipated part of any journey. Keep asking the questions, and giving yourself the quiet meditative space you need to unearth the answers.
You’ll know you’ve connected with your why when you have a deeper understanding of yourself and your values, and when you feel clear about what you want to achieve and the sort of difference you want to bring to the world.
For a deeper dive into the world of your why, check out our comprehensive online masterclass, Find Your Why, resplendent with down-to-earth information, videos, practical exercises, and more. Enrol here.