In 2018, I decided to take a break from the world and spend time with myself; following a lack of motivation with the work I was doing. In the end, taking a break helped in finding back that spark, and here are the most important things I learned.
All through 2018, I was somewhat off the grid. That was never my intention at the beginning of last year. I had goals about my career, about learning and exploring new and dreaded territories and a lot of cool stuff. Something happened. I mean, something happened within me. I came to a certain consciousness; one that came from a question we rarely ask ourselves, and that question is — What do I really want at this stage of my life?
My struggle to stay motivated led me on a path in pursuit of clarity regarding my purpose. The good thing about this pursuit is that it brought up more questions and so, I kept seeking answers. And that brings me to the first lesson I learned.
Not sure if what I wanted was a day job or freelancing gigs, I decided to take a break. Not just a break from 9–5, but also a break from living other peoples’ lives, a break from taking instructions, a break from social media and the validation that comes with it, a break from the noise that permeates the design industry, a break from stress, a break to figure out what I really wanted at this stage of my life.
Taking a break has undoubtedly been the best decision I’ve made in my entire life. It allowed me the rare opportunity to have more space within, to seek the answers to questions; for which the answers would only arise if I have the time and space to go into my inner self.
I’ve come to understand the saying — “Seek, and you shall find”. I used to think it had to do with something physical like exploring places, searching for information, praying to some imaginary being or, longing for something.
However, I’ve come to understand that the answers that we seek are within. Only if we make out time to unplug from the noise and listen to our inner voice because; the divine is (within) us.
I’ve learnt that the curiosity to know who we really are ignites our inner state of consciousness, which results in the formulation of energy that powers the answers that we seek.
I am more than my physical body. The real me is my mind; something I love to call energy, which has a large concentration in my brain, and which powers my body. I don’t see it, but it’s there. If people would take care of their body by eating healthy, wearing makeup and good clothing, exercising, using anti-aging creams etc. What about the mind, something we can’t see, nor quantify.
My break gave me space and time to ask questions about my belief, about the sacred books e.g., the Bible. I had never questioned the stories I’ve always been told since I was a little kid growing up in a Christian home. Now that I had time for myself, the opportunity to be curious about my beliefs came handy. As I sought for answers to the purpose of mankind and life after death, I was able to read 2 amazing books — Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, and A Little History of Religion by Richard Holloway. And can you guess the outcome? — confusion, uncertainty, controversy, mythology, etc.
One day, the answers came. It said from within: “The stories don’t matter. You don’t have to find physical evidence to validate the Bible and the books of religion. The right thing to ask is — what are these books and ideologies trying to say? Why are they here? And what can you learn from them”?
I came to the realization that these books are not what most people think they are. They aren’t stories, nor some rules we must follow. These books, unlike other books, are for the mind. And boom! I came to a new level of consciousness.
If I read Peter Theil’s book and gain some knowledge that adds value to me, how much more books that have stood the test of time, and read by billions of people. This experience changed my perspective on religion and the purpose it serves. No, the bible isn’t about heaven or hell. These books are words of wisdom and knowledge that enables us to become better people here on earth, live long and make a lasting impact. And trust me, that’s what it is.
In recent times, meditation has suddenly become a thing to take part in; a practice known for religious people and monks is being embraced by millennials and the smartest people who’d damn religion.
I’ve always heard the word “meditation”, but I wasn’t clear about what it was, not until I took my first Headspace session, and read more about it. I realized it was an exercise for the mind.
The world is full of distractions with a gazillion things seeking our attention — notifications, emails, social media, family, friends, the news, work, etc. The effect of these is that it programs our brain in such a way that we gradually begin to lose our ability to focus on ourselves, our ability to focus on essential tasks, our ability to set the right priorities, our ability to have clarity of mind, our ability to be in the moment. These distractions deprive us of spending time with our inner selves hence, hindering us from knowing who we really are and what we are capable of.
I realized I was a victim, so I decided to turn down social media. I turned off notifications for all apps, completely. I scheduled time for emails and messaging. I decided I was going to re-configure my defaulted brain. I signed up for Headspace and begun practicing meditation, mindfulness, and the art of being in control of myself (because, most of the time, we are not in control).
The experience has been phenomenal. Never before have I been able to be mindful of my inner states, my emotions, my body, things and people around me. My ability to focus has seen an upward trend. I have more clarity. I’ve become happier knowing more about myself. I do more today because, I can now sustain focus, know what’s up, and exert control.
Spirituality is all about the mind. And all what these ideologies are saying is how to tap into the power of the mind, be in control, overcome the flesh and reset the defaults that come with us.
One of the biggest questions I asked about my career is — do I really want to be designing widgets for the rest of my life? Do I really want to keep designing for clients; for a one-time job/fee, after which I don’t give a fuck how their business is doing? For how long will I have the tag “Product Designer”? It has to be more than Sketch, cool experiences, design thinking methodologies, technology, Dribbble, the design community, social media, and all.
As time went on, I was less concerned about trends and the noise that came with it; tools, frameworks, methodologies, buzzwords, etc no longer excited me as they once did. These things are cool and a means to an end, I thought. I knew there was something missing — the reason why I was struggling with keeping up my motivation.
As a Designer, and whatever thing you find yourself doing, the validation you need that fuels the motivation that keeps you going in the right direction is the impact you make. Not how many likes your posts have or how many followers you have, but how many lives you are touching in a positive way, in anyway you can.
Having well-done case studies and a beautiful portfolio is great, but how has your work done in the world? What matters to you? Is it the likes and compliments, or do you want to work on products that people love and are using every day?
So I told myself, whatever I find myself doing next, it has to be something of real impact. It’s either I’m working with businesses or companies making measurable impact, or I design and build something myself that will make an impact, no matter how small. Impact is what really matters.
As career people, we spend more time building our careers and growing our skillset that we forget about our mind, our body, our relationships and the things that really matter. Taking a break made me learn more about myself like I’ve mentioned. Most importantly; to be at my best, I realized there are things I need to pay more attention to — my body, my mind and the relationships I have.
Knowing this has been one of the best discoveries for me. Paying attention to my body and mind, and knowing at least a little of how they work has enabled me to have more control. I know the right things to eat and do, the right people to associate with to boost my energy levels, which in turn has an impact in other aspects of my life, including my career and skills. I know I have to eat healthy, exercise, meditate, spend more time with my inner self, sleep well, associate with the right people so I can be at my optimal best, live long, and fulfill my potentials.
Personally, in taking a break, I learned that to be great at what I do as a Designer isn’t only by trying to improve or learn more about design or tech related stuff but essentially, having a broad spectrum of how the world works.
As Designers and for most people working in tech, we need to know what’s happening in the world, and not just in the design or tech community, for us to have real impact. We need to understand and pay attention to people — how different people think and behave, values, ideologies, cultures, businesses, the stock market, science, human biology etc. And not just tools, career or skills. Essentially — knowing how the world works.
During my break, I spent time reading, watching videos and shows that interest me. I’d say this knowledge has made me a better person and also, a better Designer.
For years, working for people and companies, my typical schedule was work, work, and work. As a Lagosian, the rest of the time was spent commuting and resting from the energy-sapping city. However, in taking a break, I had more time to do other things, at least most importantly; to think about stuff I had never paid attention to — the fact that I have to be deliberate about how I spend every day of my life.
Aside from work, most of us live passive lives. We take things as they come, with little or no control whatsoever. In taking a break, I realized I had spent most of my life not being in control of it (sobbing), and immediately I realized this, I took it upon myself to be in control, to have the ultimate say on the things I do, hour by hour.
Thankfully, I read Jake’s and JD’s book, Make Time, so I decided I was going to go with their ideas and It worked for me. Ever since, on a daily basis, I decide on one most important thing I must accomplish from a list of written out goals/tasks, from all the facets of my life and work. I block out time on my calendar for that specific “Highlight”, and add the other essential/urgent stuff to the time left. Guess what? If I had known this all through my life, I would have been far more than I’m today. But yet, I’m grateful for this unlocked level of consciousness.
We are very much influenced by people and things around us. We can either make our choices deliberately, or allow other people’s agendas to control our lives. One of life’s secret is to be in control.
Taking a break, I have to say that everyone deserves a break.
A break to seek clarity of purpose.
A break from social media.
A break from taking instructions from people.
A break from living other peoples’ lives.
A break to figure out your own life.
A break to make time and space for the right questions and answers.
A break from the noise that permeates the industry.
A break to have a clear space, and spend time with oneself.
A break to explore unchartered territories.
A break to figure out what you really want.
I’m not saying you should quit your lofty goal for 2019, and start seeking. But if you are like I was, finding yourself lacking in motivation for what you are currently doing, don’t stress it. Take a break and make out time to figure out that spark.
Sometimes, at some stage in our lives, all we need is a break.
I’m back! I’m back with a purpose, drive, and a renewed mind.
To be honest, I miss product design, development, and iterating on something to figure out what works. I miss writing. I miss the feedback I get from people about my work and things I write about.
During my break, I took a gig that kind of sustained me during the time. I’ve been working with Advance, designing and building the bank you wish had.
Advance is a digital-only bank that promises to change banking as we know it. Advance is launching soon, and I’m committed to seeing it thrive. Go sign up to be the first to have a bank everyone’s gonna love.
I’m also helping businesses design and build digital products at BETA, an independent product studio.
This year, I shall be writing more. I also want to build something of my making; an app, maybe. I want to make new and meaningful relationships, love more, travel more, give more, teach young and growing designers, and help businesses build and launch products that will make an impact.
I’ve learned a lot, but these few ones I thought I should share. I’d appreciate your comments, questions or opinions, and I will love to be your friend. Feel free to email me, anytime — firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace & Love, folks!
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