People can find purpose doing meaningful work, especially when that work is shared with others.
But importantly, you are not your work.
I think many people, designers especially, struggle with the connection between their work and how they feel about themselves.
If you come to a point where your work doesn’t feel valued, appreciated, listened to, or doesn’t have the impact you hoped it would, then that’s on the work.
This isn’t shifting responsibility. If you did your best, if you put your best ideas forward, if you cared about making change happen, and if you were fully open to working and collaborating with those around you, then that’s enough.
It’s okay to care about the work, but sometimes the work will fail or let you down. This doesn’t change who you are, or what you’re capable of contributing next. The next set of ideas, the energy and the commitment you can bring to the next opportunity still matters.
Sometimes companies will fail you, teams will fail you, and projects will definitely fail you. But that doesn’t get to define who you are. Your work matters if you’re willing to keep going.
We can all draw a personal line on creative practice and our relationship with our work, and where we work.
Design is always working within constraints that determine the outcome. We can choose to work with open hands because it’s impossible to hold on to everything that determines what actually happens.
Yes the work matters and it can give us purpose, but it doesn’t get to tell us who we are. That’s just a distraction from the next opportunity, idea, or conversation that’s in front of us.
This post was inspired by seeing this 2019 tweet on my Timehop today – “you are not your work, but your work can have your fingerprints all over it”.