Discontent is Good for Creatives, and Here's Why

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To be human is to be discontent. On our shelves stand an army of books aiming to extricate this through gaining happiness. Exercises and poetic quotes around the elusive topic inspire as we read. But these fade in the face of reality. Where is the disconnect? Happiness, especially around your career or personal development, needs to be earned and internalised. One way is through discontent, or that feeling of dissatisfaction around your circumstances. Taking the journey through it will reveal your true priorities while clearing the path for new endeavors.

We all complain. About the weather. About coffee. About our jobs. But after awhile, you’ll notice people switch off to the negativity. The burden can only be shared for so long. It does carry one positive value: letting off the steam before the boil. Loosening the pressure is the first step to unraveling your discontent, making it less cumbersome and irritating. After you’re back to full composure, we can get to it.

Identify the following as a start:

  • Where do you feel your discontent is come from?
  • What about it bothers you?
  • What does this say about your needs?

We’ve heard the term “feeling stuck” and we’ve all felt it at sometime or another. Like a machine that needs some WD40 or fine tuning, feeling stuck is only an indicator that something is not right. Perhaps the ratio of work to home time is not aligned with your needs. Or you require constant learning opportunities to be upbeat and energised day-to-day. As you get older and you’ve learned more about yourself through varying situations and reflections, these will become easier to understand.

Now ask these questions:

  • What would be an alternative situation to lessen this feeling?
  • What action can you take to tackle it?
  • Who else should be involved to progress its improvement?

I’ll use myself as an example. My mind does not stop working. If left unattended it creates knots, not masterful weaves. Taking on side projects like journalism, video editing or dreaming of long-term book projects channels my energy. Much like a marathon runner who needs to run six times a week or (s)he feels “off”, my mind needs its own daily workout. When I observed my feelings with and without side projects, I noticed, like these runners, my grouchiness levels rise without my daily workout. And trust me, this did not come as an obvious step at first. It required months of observation and conversations, especially with my wise friends and wiser parents, to understand what was actually going on.

Once it’s all out on the table, discontent does not look too bad. I find it to be one of the healthiest reactions that should be embraced instead of shunned. Some of your greatest progressions professionally can come from analysing and then taking the journey to work through it. So embrace this stage in your progression and learn to love your discontent.