Define Your WHY: What's Your Purpose
Let me tell you a quick story.
I had just spent three days outside in 90+ degree heat. I was tired and sweaty from tear down at an art festival. I had just finished my third crappy show in a row. It was my first year being a full-time artist. My apartment felt like it was one million degrees and I sat directly in front of my wall unit air conditioner (that smelled really bad, by the way) and cried while I questioned every single decision I had made up to that point about my career choice.
I questioned WHY in the world I thought I could make a living as an artist…when I had no high-level artistic training and no background in business.
I questioned IF I should give up and go back to a ‘real job’.
I questioned why I moved back to a city that was so expensive to live in, when I was still living on my savings.
I questioned everything…
But only for that one day. I bounced back the next day (or maybe after two days) and got back to work. HOW did I muster the strength to do that after such a terrible showing just the day before? My WHY – that’s how.
I knew WHY I decided to try in the first place.
At that time in my life, my WHY was mostly about doing something that felt fulfilling and not wanting to get stuck in the monotonous routine of 9-5 life.
Many years later, my business and my WHY look very different than they did on that very hot summer evening, but the guiding principles are the same.
Determining your WHY is creating a foundation for your business. Your ‘why’ is what keeps you from quitting when you have a difficult day or get rejected. Your ‘why’ is the reason that you spend so much energy creating your business in the first place. Your ‘why’ is the reason you’ve chosen this path to earn money for your family when you could easily go make money somewhere else. The solid foundation you create by spending time with your ‘why’ will keep you standing and your business afloat when challenges come knocking.
At the beginning of 2020, I watched art festival after art festival get cancelled across the country and, once again, like so many others, I saw my business begin to crumble. I gave myself one day to wallow in self-pity and then I made myself figure out how to move forward because my WHY is stronger than the obstacles. It’s been a difficult year and not everything has worked out, but I’m still here. My business is still standing. This second business - Color-Coded Creatives, business coaching for artists - grew out of the my time in quarantine.
I encourage you to spend some time figuring out WHY you are pursuing your creative practice as a business and career. Go deeper than you are comfortable with when you first start this exercise because your true why will not be surface level. Keep asking yourself WHY, until you land on the true reason this is important to you. Then WRITE IT DOWN. This is not something you need to share with anyone, but it’s important to have a reminder for yourself on days when you’re struggling.
This is an easy step to skip as you develop your business, but you’ll be thankful you did the work when your resolve is tested…and it will be.