We all know what we want and where we want to go in life. And we all work hard to get there. Right?
Sometimes I’m not so sure.
The older I get, the more I notice how often people get in the way of their own success.
People say they want one thing, but seem to be working against themselves all along.
I see people who are desperate to get on board with companies and organizations they think can further their professional goals. They become convinced that this is THE place they have to be. No other will do. They are so desperate, they resort to subterfuge and strong-arm techniques.
They think they’re being subtle and “smart”. But they’re actually being manipulative and deceitful. In fact, they end up ensuring that company will never do business with them, if they can help it.
I see people who want to be respected, who want to set a good example for others. But they lead double lives, negating everything they say professionally by what they do in their private lives. They’ve never learned that “do what I say, not what I do” only works for very young children–say, under three.
The folks who think they can lead these double lives do not understand how devastating it is when their masquerade is revealed. They may mean well. But they end up doing a tremendous disservice to their cause, no matter how dedicated they intend to be to it.
On the other hand, there are people with very little personal experience who feel they know enough to tell everyone else what to do. But they’ve never walked the walk, they can only talk the talk. “Advice” from these people sounds good, til you realize they’ve never actually put it into practice.
As artists, we can fall prey to the same temptations.
We say we want recognition, but we don’t work hard enough to get our work and our name out there. We sneer at others’ efforts to promote themselves, calling them “self-serving” or “braggarts”. (There’s a huge difference between puffing yourself up, and simply making sure the world knows about your art!)
We say we want an audience for our work, but we don’t produce enough work to sell. We find a million excuses not to paint, not to write. I’m always amazed at the people who don’t make time or even a physical space for their art in their lives. They often don’t create a single place in their home where they can sit down and make stuff.
We say our customers don’t appreciate us or understand our work, but we don’t try very hard to find the people that would appreciate and buy our work.
Or we berate the customers we do have. In fact, customer-bashing is often a popular artist pastime. Check out any professional on-line forum, and often the biggest thread is the “stupid customer” discussion. Artists cheer each other on to come up with the best snappy put-down to what they consider rude customer questions. I’m always astounded at the phenomenon, and try to avoid it totally. It’s just not good energy. I figure it also proves that those artists are doing the wrong shows!
We’re full of advice for other people, but never ask if what worked for us in our particular situation, is actually what might work for them in theirs.
Or we don’t realize that they didn’t even actually ask us for our advice. (Ouch!)
We all do this to some extent. We all have a disconnect between the world inside our head and the world “out there.” It’s part of our human nature. And sometimes it’s a necessary disconnect.
It’s when it’s not getting you what you want that it becomes a problem. As Dr. Phil is fond of saying, “Is that working for you?”
The last few years have been a time of much introspection on my part. It hurts to look at the fuzzy zone where my words and my actions should meet, and see what’s matching up and what isn’t. Sometimes it’s downright embarrassing.
But I have to do it. And so should you.
Periodically assess yourself. Pull out your business plan occasionally and see where you stand.
If you’ve achieved many of your goals, then congratulations! Your actions are in alignment with your intentions.
If not, why not?
Did you simply forget what you set out to do? Time to think hard about what you really want, and determine if your current actions will get you there.
Did your goals change, and you forgot to change your process? Remember that sad adage, “Do the same thing, expect different results” is a recipe for unhappiness.
Did you achieve your first round, but forgot to set new goals? That’s wonderful! Time to get your Big Dream hat on again. Now you know the process works, and you can dream even bigger.
Be prepared to forgive yourself if you find yourself off target. Sometimes, I suspect we get off-course because we were never really dedicated to the course we chose. Or we honestly don’t realize how much we’ve fooled ourselves.
Or we find we really don’t want that anymore. Our needs, our desires have changed.
And that’s okay, too.
We all do it. We are human, after all, not computer programs.
Just be willing to stop and check your map.
Ask for directions if you are well and truly lost.
Or maybe even simply enjoy the new route you find yourself on.