The year is going so fast and I feel as if I have done “nothing”…. I punish myself, draw a long list of the projects that I want to do and promise to wake up early and crack on with all what I need to do. Around me everybody talk about “hard work” and the sacrifices one must do when becoming an enterpreneur (some say that I should forget family and friends), it all sounds too difficult. But perhaps the question is instead, what is our definition of success?
This was the question my dear advisor/coach/dream planner Dawn Jordan posed to me in our monthly session. I was somehow comparing the hyper activity of my art last year (and the pre-conceptions of a productive life) to the gentle development of this one. I mentioned how I have spent some lovely time meeting friends, attending events, visiting inspiring exhibitions, playing and exploring in my MATS Creative course. I also said how much I am now enjoying the balance between my job, my art and my life, and how in general, I feel much healthier, happier and inspired. But of course, this sounds so positive, so I also moaned about the absence of “outcomes” during this year… those “traps” of our cultural system that seem to value “production” and “consumption” as the only ways of “being” valuable.
So what is my idea of success?
Well, I would start by saying that success for me is to be able to live a balanced and healthy life and to create spaces to express my self in a creative and joyful ways. I know this is a wide definition, that does not really talks about millions of pounds, franchises, jet setting or worthy causes, but, it is my definition. I question the idea of a “career”, because I do not like to run or to race. I dislike the system of individual rewarding or fame, opting instead for collective efforts, community ideals and team-working. And I know that it is all about “being happy” and “living beautifully” what really matters to me…
I am aware that from time to time this option of doing art is just a bit mad, where the usual indicators of income, fame, worth and value are uncertain. But these are only social created aspects of what is success. What about the inner, spiritual and more life-defining or life affirming aspects of success? These “invisible” aspects seem to be thus undervalued, and yet I bet that most of people who opt for an artistic path will coincide in their questioning of “normal jobs”, with their carrot of income and pension, followed by the stick of stress, blurred boundaries between private and work life, and general detachment of the value of what one is doing. I am not saying, however, that art is the answer; indeed, there is not real escape from the system as it is, and also we are prone to engage into the practices and culture of “stress”, “productivity” and “fame”. But what I am trying to highlight here is that there are ways (in art or in any other path) to re-create these notions of success that brings more well being, spiritual rewarding and overall health and happiness.
Dawn challenged me to re-think my “success” indicators by widening their spectrum, so, she asked me “what makes you happy?” This is my list:
- Visiting and talking to my friends
- Sharing with my partner
- Create – paintings, ideas, projects.
- Spend time in nature, walking, singing.
- Go for nice exhibitions
- Learning new things, meet new people, make connections.
- Gardening and playing with my plants
These, said Dawn, should be my indicators of success. Note that the list does not include: selling lots of paintings; producing many paintings; winning X Award; being named Artist of the Year; have XXX amount of money in the bank… indeed… all the things I mentioned are quite simple. They need money, of course, but they go beyond the money. And I am quite sure that JOY will bring more “productivity”: inspiration and lovely pictures. As Lilla Rogers say: People buy your joy! So instead of investing on stress or hard work, I must invest in finding my joy! Funnily enough, the conversation ended with the amount of great things I’ve been doing, the new experiments with my Zoom paintings, the inspiration from exhibitions around, the way I am reflecting on the possibilities of art and sustainability and in general the approach to art and life that makes possible to live beautifully!
I wonder if you who are reading this blog can make your own list of things you like to do, and at the end of the week, you check your list with the activities you’ve done in the week… and in this comparison you may find how “successful” you’ve been!
Thanks Dawn for your great advise and company in this journey!
Note: if you wish to contact Dawn for coaching and advising issues please leave your name and interest in the comments section.