I believe that the key to lasting motivation and productivity is having a strong purpose. And this purpose should exist in the form of an objective statement.
Because at some challenging point in the process, you will have to defeat the shadow that demands the answer to the question:
“Why are you doing this difficult thing?”
And without skipping a beat, you can present that shadow a pre-written note that says:
“Right now, this is why.”
And if the shadow is a nice guy, he will respond:
“Wow, that’s a really well articulated reason. Thanks for letting me know!”
Then he’ll retreat into the deep recesses of your mind to bother you another time (probably later tonight, when you go to bed).
You may have your “why” memorized, but getting it down in writing is the true test.
Everyone should have their own objective statement, even if it’s written in private.
An artist’s objective statement
While I was redesigning my website, I did a lot of thinking about why I do the things I do. I read that a strong brand promotes some set of values or ideals that people can remember.
During my reflection, I was reminded of my required “artist’s statement” that I had to write for my high school art class.
An artist’s statement is a written primer for the audience, to be read before viewing a piece of art. It helps explain what the author is all about, how and why they make art. This is important, since context is a huge component of appreciating and understanding someone’s work. Art is subjective after all.
Often, these statements are important to very fine art. I associate them with galleries, portfolios, and formal essays. The goal with these types of statement is to inform others. They are very useful in preventing unwarranted criticism or misunderstandings about a piece.
I struggled very much with my high school artist’s statement.
At the time, all I knew was that art was fun. From a student’s perspective, that’s all there was to say. Why write 2-3 paragraphs about it?
Don’t make it so complicated, Board of AP Art Educators!
So instead, let’s inspect a different, broader kind of statement.
A company’s objective statement
“A mission statement is a statement which is used as a way of communicating the purpose of the organization.”
It’s to be short and to the point. Instead of worrying about the techniques and lengthy descriptions of your artistic style, the mission statement asks for a single, concise, sentence. Here are a couple I like, some from a list I found on topnonprofits.com:
- Charity: water: We’re a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries.
- Best Friends Animal Society: A better world through kindness to animals.
- New York Public Library: To inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities.
- Make-A-Wish: We grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
- Bungie Studios: Bungie is a studio built first and foremost on the strengths and abilities of its people. We use the best technology and the best talent in the industry, assembled together in the best place, to create compelling games, stories and worlds.
Almost all companies, organizations, governments have some sort of mission statement.
Unfortunately, they aren’t really meant for individuals. The objectives described above are rather wide-scale and unfit for following on a day to day basis.
A personal objective statement!
So if an artist’s statement is too narrow, and a company mission statement is too broad, then let’s just imagine a personal objective statement that falls in between the two. It should contain:
- Some thing you must do (spread beauty)
- Why you believe in this thing (beauty leads to appreciation, then understanding, and eventually camaraderie)
- How you will do that thing (by drawing stick figures mauling each other to death!)
It may take awhile to figure out these 3 things. Especially if you’re not the self-reflective type. Actually, finding your “true” purpose is like, the most difficult thing in the world… so don’t think too hard about it.
I’d say focus on what your gut says for now.
If you value lofty ideals like beauty, truth, and justice, then great! But even simpler, more practical goals like fun and relaxation are equally as valid. All that matters is that you truly believe and stick by it.
Once you’ve crafted your personal objective, that one sentence will be enough to stave off procrastination and boredom.
Why? Because you put a lot of thought into it.
And if the mind likes anything, it’s a well-thought out reason for doing something.
Plus, sappy motivational videos will be 100x more effective.
Big Bonus Benefit
Not only will defining an objective statement help you stay on track, it will allow you to produce your most fulfilling work. You can look back at your project, achievement, or milestone with satisfaction. Satisfaction is the happiness dividend that keeps on paying.
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