You’ve probably heard the phrase, Keep Not Settling. From Etsy mugs to words of inspiration on Pinterest, this subtle command may give us the oomph we need on a Monday morning—or it may leave us feeling rather unsettled, but not in the good way, not in the go-get-’em-bootstraps kind of way.
Seeing these inspirational mugs everywhere? Here’s how to keep not settling without tearing out your hair.
It’s easy to stumble across maxims like these and feel an uncomfortable pressure to be more entrepreneurial. Or just entrepreneurial at all. We may feel the nagging questions, Am I not doing enough? What else, exactly, could I be doing? It can be hard to answer these questions when we’re still in the process of defining our dreams and determining your career path.
But not to sweat—you can still push yourself (gently, or not) even if your ultimate direction has yet to be mapped.
Do something every week that takes you out of your comfort zone.
This one is hard for me because I don’t like change, and I get pretty attached to my routine. Sure, a solid routine can really serve us, but it’s also good to throw a curve ball in there once in a while—whether that means picking up a side job, taking art classes, or going to a networking event (when you’d rather stay home and soak in the tub). One of the things I don’t want to “settle” with is my current skill set—I want it to evolve with me—and one of the surest ways to make that happen is to throw myself into challenges.
Put in the time, and keep your standards high.
This quote by Ira Glass says it all. The reason we get into our passions is because we have good taste, but the vast majority of us don’t produce work up to our standards when we’re first starting. It’s only after putting in time that we get closer to making our product match our creative vision. I’m including the entire quote here because I love every word:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Keep believing in your growth potential and pursuing new skills.
If you’ve experienced “the gap” mentioned by Glass (who hasn’t?), you may have felt serious frustration. This is normal. The challenging part is to keep persisting. If you remind yourself to believe in your ability to get better, it won’t seem so preposterous to keep going and learning from your mistakes. From personal experience, I’ve seen this come true with photography. Although I’m still lightyears away from being able to take the kind of photos I’d like to, I’ve made a lot of progress in the past few years. For one, I knew it was possible for me to improve. I just needed to keep practicing and learning new skills. In my case, learning new skills meant poking around online, but depending on your resources, it could also mean talking to an expert in the field or taking a course.
Find joy in your work, even the tedious stuff.
If you’re enjoying your work, you’re likely to invest yourself in it more fully (without feeling like you’re sacrificing your vital life force). Enjoying your work doesn’t have to come from a major existential shift, however. For me, it’s as simple as putting myself in the right working environment (when possible) and creating a ritual around my tasks. For example, I’m not a huge fan of sitting down to edit photos—way less fun than actually taking them! But when I need to go through a batch, I make some tea, sit at my desk, turn on a good playlist (I like “Afternoon Groove” by Spotify for this kind of thing), and get to it. This has become a nice ritual that I’ve started to look forward to. With any job or creative pursuit, there will be mundane elements that just have to get done—whether it’s answering a slew of emails every morning or preparing memos, there’s probably room to make the experience pleasant.
Practice mindfulness and continually evaluate where you are—in a nonjudgmental way.
This includes not only observing the distance you have to go (if that can even be determined) but also appreciating how far you’ve come (even if the path hasn’t been super straight). Let this be a reminder to you that you are growing—even if it feels like your career or creative work has been static lately. If it feels like you haven’t been making progress, don’t leap to judge yourself. (This isn’t always productive!) Rather, sit down and think about what steps you can take to find a way beyond your current position. (Baby steps count!) Reroute when necessary 🙂
How do you keep not settling?
More career tips: 5 Non-Stressful Ways to Measure Your Career Success
How to Get in the Flow and Work Effortlessly
Get more like this–sign up for our newsletter for exclusive inspirational content!
Photo: The Everygirl