Why Defining Your Values Improves Your Motivation As A Designer

Have you ever stopped to think about what truly motivates you?

There are many things that motivate us to make work;  getting paid, supporting a family, trying to pacify that inner need to ​create something great. But sometimes motivation can be in short supply. What happens when life has the odds stacked up against you?
This is something I now consider frequently​; what motivates me to make the work I do? But I never used to. In the earliest days of my career I was desperate to be accepted/ liked/ loved/ followed/friended.  Furiously pushing out work in the hope it got a few retweets. There wasn't much more to it than that. A career built on hope.
Then one day a realisation set in; this doesn't feel right. Chasing acceptance is not fulfilling me.  I needed something more if I was to keep that tiny flame of motivation flickering. I started to question the impact my work had on others (if at all) when it was so fleeting and ephemeral and motivated only by the need to get seen.  Answering this question opened up a gaping flaw in my work and I really didn't like what I found;
My work felt hollow, vacuous and pointless.  All dressed up with nothing to say.
​This really hurt. It hurt because I'd spent so much of my time trying to define myself by the work I made. I quickly realized that this negative mindset needed to change, and for it to do so, I had to take a look at the real reason I made work. And slowly over time I began to rebuild my creative intentions from the ground up. I started paying attention to my values.
​After many walks, bowls of ice cream, scribbled lists and a few Happy New Years (yes it took some time) this is what I discovered about myself:

+ I am still attracted to an era where printed matter was more prevalent in our daily lives.

+ I believe in the immeasurable power of storytelling and by telling stories in my own work I hope to give others the confidence to tell their own stories. 

+ I believe in a life of creative abundance, shaping every one of my decisions and outcomes, fuelled by a desire bring something joyous to others.

+ I believe in the confidence to create what you believe in and make a really big life for yourself and I am dedicated to motivating others to do the same.

+ I want my work to contribute to a project/film in the best way it can with other like minded and dedicated individuals.

+ I believe in delighting my audience .

This was a revelation. I had no idea this was all part of me and it changed the way I think.​

You might be reading this and thinking it all sounds a bit idealistic? Well, you are probably right. Because Idealism is another value I discovered that underpins what I do as a designer. I am a hopeless optimist. Even when I find myself in the eye of the storm and nothing is working out, I am trying to  think of better times filled with success and fulfilment. I can't tell you how on how many occasions I have started a new prop or illustration which at some point has gone spectacularly wrong. I've contributed quite a lot to my own design graveyard. This happens a lot, but I've just learnt to cover my ears to the siren of perfection and accept that my best is good enough. This is not defeat, more a realistic appraisal of the creative process.
I don't think designers talk about this enough.  How to stay motivated in the face of insurmountable challenges. We all face different kinds of challenges in our creative lives, but the same question will present itself to all of us at one point or another no matter what we are working on: 
What have you got to help you keep going?
For me, designing props is a little bit like creating forgeries for an alternate world.  They are the supporting cast of a much greater story.  Sometimes they are technically difficult to achieve and other times they seem to come together effortlessly.  But they are always designed for the common purpose of being for someone or something else. If a piece of work doesn't hit it's target, then I start again.  
So I try and use the value of delighting my audience as a way to motivate me through it. That's the way I do it.  It may not be everyone's magic motivation button to build a happy and sustainable career, but as creative individuals we do have to search inside ourselves for that special something that makes us tick.
No-one can do that work for us. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the idea of there being  a natural and useful tension between the problems and solutions of the creative process.
So how does defining your values help?
If you pause and take some time to truly consider the impact you would like  to have on the world, you might make some surprising discoveries about which directions to take your work in and feel more at ease with the process.
As a designer, writing out my values above, it's clear to me that I need to feel an emotional resonance with the work I make in order to feel fulfilled. And that resonance comes from attempting to do something that's far greater than the needs of my own;

To try hard to inspire others.

Here's a few questions you can ask yourself  when it comes to defining your own values:

1. Look for the re-occurring themes or motifs and that shape your work. Where do they come from and why do you use them?

2. What work do you feel happiest making?

3. Am I making work just for popularity or some other purpose?

4. Can you identify some of the things you do that offer you the most creative fulfilment?

Here's a list of ​positive values to help you out:
Source: mindtools.com

Create with love, care and a greater intention
Defining my values has really helped me to focus on what I want out of my work and it motivates me to keep moving forward. 
Of course, defining your values is one thing. Exercising them is something else entirely. It takes work. I have to constantly remind myself that if I persist with the work I make and I push through the barriers, then there is sure to be someone waiting at the end of it who will enjoy and benefit from my efforts. I also remind myself that the experience I gain from making a current piece of work, however up and down, could really help to make the next piece even better and have a greater impact on the world.
It doesn't matter what you create, if you do it with love, care and a greater intention, it may help to keep you motivated and you will find an audience. And they won't just be drawn to your work, they'll be drawn to your values too.
Have you had issues with motivation?  What values drive you to do what you do? 
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