Sunday Reflections: Design Sponge Podcast on Burnout & How to Deal

Photo by Tim Lingley

Photo by Tim Lingley

I’ve been looking for some podcasts to listen to while I paint and/or sketch, and as I was going through some of my feeds I spotted a show called “After the Jump” that Design Sponge had posted. This week’s show discussed work-life balance, and whether or not it actually exists. It’s a great podcast and I highly recommend that anyone in a creative profession, whether it’s blogging, cooking, art, etc go listen.

Grace Bonney, blog-runner at Design Sponge and host of the show, discussed why work life balance is an issue. Burn-out is a phenomenon that’s become more and more common over the past decade, but why is that? She goes on to say that with the popularity of the internet and social media, more people are finding ways to create and work their dream jobs. Having a career that you love makes it much harder to separate life and work.

One of contributing factors to burn-out is social media. We’ve become accustomed to sharing every part of our lives on the internet through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, and there can be a subconscious urge to frame our life and our issues in a way that’s pleasing to others. This puts a lot of pressure on us to be perfect and to gain the acceptance of others. With social media being so readily accessible through laptops, tablets and phones, we stay plugged into it indefinitely, even while we’re supposedly on vacation. If we’re busy trying to show off that perfect beach photo, or tag the right restaurant, are we really totally on vacation?

This podcast hit home for me because Grace reveals some personal details about medical issues that arose from burn-out. It’s both funny and sad that when we go to the doctor for a physical issue such as an infection, and are prescribed a drug, we automatically trust the doctor’s opinion. However, if we go in with physical symptoms and are told to stop stressing out and be more active, we dismiss it and assume something more is wrong with us! Of course there will be cases where there is something other than stress is at work, but stress is a powerful and terrible beast that I’ve had too much experience with. It can manifest in lots of horrible ways and be every bit as miserable as any other ailment, and needs to be taken just as seriously as an infection would be.

I don’t want to give away the entire podcast, because it’s awesome and totally worth listening to, but here are a few more areas of discussion that are covered:

  • How to figure out and achieve your goals, short term and long term.
  • Saying “no”, letting go of the “should” voice, how to get over the feeling of  “losing out”.
  • The importance of a support network.

I’ve experienced burn-out during my previous job and don’t want to experience it through art. One of the reasons I decided against art right after high school was that I didn’t want it to become something I dreaded, something I hated. Now I know that I need to separate what I do during the day, and focus on relaxing/enjoying my own life so that won’t happen. In order to feel a balanced life, I need to make sure that my personal life flourishes just as much as my professional life does. This means slowing down and not taking on too much work so that I have time to stop and smell the roses. Even if that means it’ll take longer to reach my goals, I’ll be able to enjoy the ride that much more and not be hindered by burn-out down the road.

Do you feel like you’ve reached your goals, but it doesn’t feel like you thought it would? This work-life podcast will help you figure out why and what to do about it. Go listen!

Chasing After Art & Why I Do It

Evening Fishing by Tim Lingley

Evening Fishing by Tim Lingley

I admire and look up to anyone who has left the safety of a 9 to 5 job to pursue their dreams. Many who consider this just have their heads in the clouds, but those who actively pursue it know how difficult it can be. For those who are desperate to get out but don’t know what they’d do if they had the chance, Purpose Fairy writes about Following Your Passion and Finding Your Purpose.

Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein

My drive to pursue art came from the desperation to break the monotonous cycle of my creatively-draining 9 to 5. Some people are already born with the drive they need to reach their goals, and some have to develop it over time.

Much of my life was laid out for me already, so I had no real reason to look at myself and ask what I really wanted. After high school, community college was the obvious choice for me because my program allowed me to live at home, pay super cheap tuition, and almost guaranteed a high-paying job upon graduation. I figured that if I had good money working regular hours, I could do art outside of work whenever I felt like it.

It wasn’t until much later that I started asking myself why I was spending so much of my day doing something that wasn’t fulfilling, something that was actually making me miserable. I’d just assumed that people toiled away a work all day whether they liked to or not, that it was just a part of life.

It was only then that I began asking myself what I really wanted out of life. It’s a hard way to go about it, but at the same time, if I hadn’t come to it this way, maybe I wouldn’t have been driven enough to pursue it to my fullest ability.

But, how do you find your passion and the drive to pursue it? The article starts us off with this:

1. Think about your childhood.

Growing up, drawing was always there from as far back as I can remember. I loved art classes all through school and drew in all the notebooks I had. I even did a painting workshop in middle school and got a radio interview out of it. It’s really encouraging to look back at those notebooks; since I was drawing every day I made a ton of progress and improved a lot, even though I wasn’t really trying.

I had no time for it in college, and that’s when I starting feeling down and out. I’m sure it also had to do with the large amount of stress I was under, but after I started work and settled in, there was still something missing in my life.

Ask yourself, If I had 1 million dollars, how would my life look like and start from there.

Jot down all the things youʼre good at, all the things youʼve ever wanted to do, all the things youʼd do if you could. You donʼt need to be rational here, just write for at least 10 minutes. Try not to let your ego take over. Just let the words roll out.

After making that list, choose one or two items that really stick out at you. Try not to be overly critical in this phase. Honestly ask yourself why you haven’t pursued those things yet. Look into what it would take to achieve those goals. You might be surprised at how easy some of them could be!

On leading a full-time creative life, Spencer Lum tells it like it is:

I can give no insights, I can offer no formulas. There are no promises here. What you get is what you get. But if you’re willing to take a gamble, I’ll bet on you. If you’re willing to put it out there, if you’re willing to fail, if you’re willing to let go of it all, thumb your nose at the world, and do it your way, I’ll believe in you. You may not find what you want, but you’ll find what you need. Want is easily known, but need is a thing that only reveals itself in retrospect.

Following your dreams, particularly in a creative field is not the path of least resistance. It’s not even an option that will get you a lot of support. No one will hold your hand, few will tell you (and actually mean it) that it’s the right thing to do. It’s a humongous test of self-discipline and perseverance.

So if it’s so difficult, why should you pursue it? I can’t answer that for you, I can only answer why I do it.

I left my job and safety net back home to pursue art because of those moments when I’m drawing, or inking, or painting when nothing else exists but the paper or canvas. Putting the brush to canvas, or the pencil to paper, just feels right.  I’d liken it to meditation, finding your center or even touching the divine. It feels like I’m doing what I’ve been made to do. It gives me a deep satisfaction and love for life that few other things do. Even if those moments are fleeting it’s worth chasing after them.

It all boils down to this: If I’m going to be spending the majority of my days and my life working on something, shouldn’t it be something I love and feel good about rather than something I don’t care about, or worse, something that makes me feel bad? Work is work and I’d rather be working towards artistic goals than anything else.

Sunday Reflections

Since I’ve got the month off until school starts up in September (even though fully unpacking the apartment is going to take quite awhile) I’m going to try and get in 4 posts a week for the month of August. I’d like to take a bit of a different route with weekend posts, and try to reflect a bit on what I read during the week. Though much of my blog feeds are filled with pretty things to look at and lust after, they also contain very thoughtful articles and interesting insight on the art & design world.

Apartment Therapy posted an article on 10 simple things you can do to make yourself happier in your home. There are a few points in particular that interest me.

1. Make your bed. – After a long day of work or school, climbing into a nicely made bed, with fresh crisp sheets, is a simple luxury that always makes me sleep better. There’s something more relaxing about climbing into a bed that’s been made as opposed to one that’s messy. It’s like when you stay with a friend, or at a hotel, and the room has been cleaned and prepared just for you. Clean room = clean mind, maybe?

4. Start a one-line-a-day gratitude journal. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time, but I’ve always forgotten about it. Starting or ending the day on a positive note, and recording all of them, is something I could look back on if I was having a bad day or feeling down on myself. Maybe I could start an illustration-type journal with this in mind?

I’m not done with my 20’s quite yet (don’t even want to think about it, omggggg) but Mighty Girl posted a list of 20 things they wish they knew in their 20’s, and I couldn’t help but take a look.

5. Don’t complain. This has taken quite a long time to sink in. While complaining may seem like it’s helping you vent, it borders on dwelling at whatever the issue on hand is. Complaining feels good in the heat of the moment, but doing it continuously just re-opens the wound and at the end of the day, isn’t very practical. Instead of complaining, I’d rather try to find a solution to the problem or simply let it slide.

16. Focus. I’ll quote the description for this one since it says it all:

The saying, “what you’re thinking about is what you’re becoming” isn’t just chilling, it’s a universal law. Be aware of how you’re investing your attention – including your words, and your actions.

18. Don’t be intimidated. I’m still working on this one. I do know that if I want to improve at something, it doesn’t help to sit around and fret about how much I have to still do, or if I’ll be good enough or not. This applies especially with art. I just need to keep my nose to the ground, push through, and shrug off any intimidation.

Back to unpacking while enjoying the Olympics. Even if you don’t like sports, the Olympics are undeniably a celebration of the beauty and ability of the human body. Enjoy the rest of your weekends, and see you all tomorrow!