For a long time, I was comfortable with the way things were going, such as the pace at which I was learning, but it felt like something was missing.
At first, I was good with just being “enough”, but that would often lead to comparing myself to others or letting my ego compensate for the feeling of insecurity I was having. I didn’t like having to defend myself because at the time, I was scared to take risks and fail, but I didn’t know how else to react at the time.
It wasn’t until by actively reflecting on past work experiences and learning from my failures that I realized how it important it was to take risks and to try new things. Taking on new opportunities has made me learn to embrace uncomfortableness that I might have experienced before, and to turn it into a moving force of action and growth. Here are some of my driving forces, though they are still uncomfortable to do at times, have allowed me to learn faster in my design practice.
Never be satisfied with one place
I have found that staying in one place for too long makes me restless. Things can become predictable and it’s hard to change the norm when everything around you is functioning in a certain way.
The most successful designers I know have a wide range of experiences that allows them to provide their valuable insight to the problems they encounter. This is because they are open to taking on different opportunities, even if it means leaving a place that are really happy in, because they know they can do the same elsewhere.
From personal experience, my design skills grew by expanding my learning outside of school. I didn’t just want to learn skills and wait for the “right” opportunity to use them. I took on different job experiences by actively applying or leveraging my network. If opportunities weren’t available for me at the time, I would create or take on new opportunities as a way to expand my reach and improve my skills.
Meet new people (not just designers!)
Meeting new people can be scary but it goes back to what we inherently crave: connection, fulfillment and belonging. At work, when I meet new people, I like asking them about the decisions they made, their passions, and how they got to where they are now. This gives me a sense of what’s possible or the fact that no idea I have is crazy.
When you go out and experience the world, your perspective grows. Your ability to connect existing ideas or generate new ideas flourishes in relation to emphasizing with others.
Hanging out with the same kind of people may feel comfortable, but it can hinder your growth and narrow your perspective. Spend time with people who inspire you, and encourage you to be better than you are now. These are the people who can teach you new things and life lessons that can push the limits of your thinking. Meeting new people has allowed me to be more open to understanding different perspectives objectively. In design, this allows me to better emphasize with others to create solutions that address their needs.
Think about your goals, values, passions
Understand what you want and why. Looking at your existing values can help you determine what you want to do in life. Once you understand your values, look at your existing routine or reflect on decisions you made. What does tell you as a person? Is it who you want to be?
The decisions you make are reflective of who you are. In design, if we want to truly design for change, this means challenging existing behaviors or interactions that do more harm than good.
For most people, we are satisfied with complacency, but if there is something we really want to do, awareness of your existing habits is the first step to doing the things you want. Question if something aligns with your personal goals and values because the chances of you being uncomfortable could be not knowing yourself enough or that you are resistant to change.
Don’t think too much, just DO it
You can constantly think about what you are going to do, but if you don’t do it, then it won’t come to fruition.
The act of doing is what allows us to realize our full potential and to improve from our past selves.
The most efficient and effective way I learn a new skills is going head first into it; understanding the process of how something works, and gathering resources and advice from people. Once I have a sense of how that thing works, that’s half the battle because I didn’t let my thoughts hinder me from learning. Doing is more important than thinking because you can always go back and think. Doing is the hard part.
At work, letting yourself be heard is part of a bigger goal to understand what can/needs to be done. It doesn’t matter whether you have an idea or not. What matters is that you let people know what you are currently thinking of and are collectively working together with others to create.
Work can get done much faster when the focus isn’t on you, but how can everyone be on the same page.
I used to be really uncomfortable with speaking up, but I have found that there is no such thing as a right or wrong idea. Sharing my thoughts has led to new ideas, has helped my co-workers support me in my work and vice versa, and recieve opportunities that are aligned with my goals and needs.
Always ask questions
Before finishing up my internship at Intuit, I had a tendency to be fixated on one idea and would try to make it work. When I think I had enough information, I would do a lot of heads down work without consulting my teammates or manager about because I thought that asking questions was a weakness unless I was truly stuck.
This mindset can not only cause problems down the line, but if you don’t validate or get feedback on your work until the very end, you can waste a lot of time designing the wrong thing. It’s also important to realize that it’s not just about you designing something, but it’s making sure that your decisions are in line with the team’s goals, the business and what the customers would need to achieve their goals.
It’s not about designing something for the sake of designing it, but it’s making sure you are designing impact.
Asking questions is a way to challenge existing assumptions and biases that can hinder your design decisions or what you think is the “right” problem to solve for. I learned that asking lots of questions is crucial because it shows that you are trying to gain deeper insights to understand a situation. It also shows that you are trying to understand what you don’t understand, which leads to making better and more informed decisions.
Realizing that being uncomfortable through doing new things is what a designer does. Designers have the ability to solve a wide range of problems and push the limits to what’s possible. It’s through experience and risk taking that allows them to take calculated risks and challenge assumptions with an open mind, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem at first.
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