Your job isn’t over just because someone praises you.
When you make something, you want to know if it works really well, or if it just works. Or maybe, sadly, if it doesn’t work at all.
How do you know it?
Most of the time, people rely on external praises and approvals and nods. You know you’re good when people say you’re good. Sometimes even, these compliments are the only thing that keeps you going.
But they can also be the one that keeps you from growing and improving.
If the external acknowledgment is your only motivation, what would you do when these people stop praising you?
Don’t let people define how good your work is
I will propose how you can do it instead.
- First, detach yourself from your work. Realizing that your work’s worth isn’t what you are worth. This isn’t easy to do, you’ll need a gentle reminder from time to time.
- Then you’ll be able to look at your work objectively, see what it’s lacking. Because you’ve detached yourself, you can also be not too excited if someone praises your work, because it’s not you who’s being praised.
- Say thank you, be grateful, but don’t dwell on that feeling. Don’t be satisfied, yet.
- Change your perspective. You still have to work on your craft. Your craft is your life’s project, it’s still a work in progress, so it couldn’t end there just because someone praises you.
Here’s a related quote from John Gardner’s talk, Personal Renewal:
“One of the enemies of sound, lifelong motivation is a rather childish conception we have of the kind of concrete, describable goal toward which all of our efforts drive us. We want to believe that there is a point at which we can feel that we have arrived. We want a scoring system that tells us when we’ve piled up enough points to count ourselves successful.
So you scramble and sweat and climb to reach what you thought was the goal. When you get to the top you stand up and look around and chances are you feel a little empty. Maybe more than a little empty.
You wonder whether you climbed the wrong mountain.
But life isn’t a mountain that has a summit, Nor is it — as some suppose — a riddle that has an answer. Nor a game that has a final score.”
Or if you’re more of a visual person, here’s a video with a similar message.
See your craft and life as a beautiful journey
The truth is, you won’t realize you’re getting better, it’s only after you’ve done it over and over again, and one day you look back and realize that you’ve gotten better at this one thing.
Sometimes, you’ll be the only one that understands your own journey. No one can see it other than you, not even your family.
In the end, your job is just getting better, being the best version of yourself. So enjoy the journey!
“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.”Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist