Career-creative Harmony: Four Powerful Metaphors
I’m sure you agree with me that career and creativity are two of the central defining aspects of our lives as vibrant, happy, prosperous human beings. When they exist in harmony, and in healthy a relationship to each other, they contribute to our sense of significance and the energized and inspired state we refer to as “zest for life”. One of the things you’re really going to love about this article is that it outlines four powerful metaphors that you can use to clarify your perspective on your career and creativity, and forge a harmonious relationship between these two central life-facets for a happy, meaningful and prosperous life.
But before we get to those powerful metaphors, a bit of background and context. Most of us spend a huge chunk of our precious life-hours in activities directly or indirectly related to work. Yet few people plan, visualize, or craft their careers or career transitions with as much care, awareness, and dedication as buying a car, painting the house, or going on holiday.
Humans are natural creators. We all aspire to nurture our great ideas from their infancy, through the shaky days of toddler-hood and puberty, and to finally to see them living as independent and appreciated creations. Whatever else we are creating, whether in the artistic, scientific, technical, or other domains, we are also as a side-effect creating meaning within our own lives and in the world. This in turn adds to our sense of significance and our zest for life.
Our careers are themselves powerful sources of creative opportunity, and forces for creation. But most aspiring creators soon come up against internal and external obstacles which seriously limit the chances of their creations surviving or flourishing as significant entities in the world.
Why use metaphors? Metaphor is a powerful creative mind-tool. Perhaps it is the most powerful, as it forms the basis of many of our other creative tools such as picture, story, symbol, and creative thinking. A metaphor is simply a statement or reference relating one thing or situation to another seemingly unrelated thing or situation.
Metaphors form such a natural part of our language and thinking that we often do not notice them. But the metaphors we use have a profound effect on how we view ourselves, our lives, our careers, and our organizations. They also influence the outcomes of our ventures. For example, a CEO who sees herself as the general of an army is likely to have a very different leadership style to one who sees herself as the conductor of an orchestra. She is also likely to build a very different kind of organization with very different results.
Metaphors are useful for making information more palatable to our minds by allowing us to organize and structure separate bits of information into meaningful, coherent, and satisfying frameworks. The four metaphors I present in this article look at four possible relationship between career and creativity and conform to an overarching metaphorical theme of creating a piece of art such as a painting, a story, a sculpture, or a song.
THE FOUR METAPHORS
1. Career as Paintbrush:
The first metaphor refers to using the elements and resources of your career in a creative way to bring about value for your clients, employers, the target market, and other stakeholders. Here the elements and resources of your career are used as artistic tools and resources, and would correspond metaphorically to the painter’s paints and brushes, the singers voice, the musician’s instrument, or the writer’s pen.
2. Career as Painting:
The second metaphor relates to applying your creativity to design, craft, and create your ideal career. Here your career itself becomes the art-form, similar to a painting or sculpture. It is the object or artifact to be created. One benefit of seeing your career as a work of art, is that a creative process can be used in its crafting.
3. Career as Artist’s Patron:
The third situation is where your career serves as a patron of your artistic or creative endeavor. Here, the person’s creative pursuits might not be directly related to her career, as in the case of an accountant who is also a weekend sculptor, or an engineer who writes poetry. So what exactly is the relationship of the patron (career) to the creative endeavor? I believe that in its most healthy and harmonious form it is a reciprocal relationship where the career, as patron, supports the creative endeavor financially and materially, and the creative process and products energize and inspire the career, giving it an added significance and meaning.
4. Career as Artist’s Model:
The fourth and final metaphor refers to using artistic modes such as storytelling, collage, poetry, and art-journaling to reflect on and enhance your understanding, inspiration and engagement with your career. Here your career serves as the subject of your art, in the same way as a painter’s model or landscape might serve as the subject for a painting, and a lyricist’s personal experiences might serve as the subject matter for writing a song. This kind of creative engagement with career as artistic subject is a valuable reflective tool for enriching your inner map of your career and the broader career landscape. This, in turn, can help you stay on-track for all the other career-creative goals embodied in the three previous metaphors.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
In summary, the four metaphors are: career as paintbrush, career as painting, career as artist’s patron, and career as artist’s model. By internalizing these four metaphors for career-creative harmony, you can visualize and craft your career and creative endeavors in a powerful and complementary way to ensure yourself a life of career-creative harmony and zest.