Changes at Work? Think Like an Artist to Beat the Anxiety

Mar 22, 2017 / Photography / how to be creative / overcoming anxiety

Is your company reorganizing? Do you have a new boss? Were you “volun-told” a new job?

In my former work as a tax accountant and in my current job, I frequently experienced large scale changes. People always say the pace of change should be welcomed. It’s an opportunity, not a threat. While this is true, it’s still not great. It’s anxiety-producing.

I was thinking the other day how artists approach change. Could we learn something from that? What happens in the artist studio that is akin to the pace of change in the business world? And could this analogy help us office workers in some way?

The Blank Page With Nowhere to Go

At the start of any artwork, an artist must face a blank page. This is daunting and frightening. So frightening in fact, that some artists avoid it at all costs. This fear shows up in subtle ways. They might clean up their studio instead of actually creating new work. The next day, something urgent comes up and they do that first, leaving no time for creating new work. The following week, they may then procrastinate for a myriad of valid reasons: family, friends, work, life.

This sounds a lot like me. I suffer from this most of the time. This year I’m trying hard to establish habits so that I don’t have to feel this decision paralysis about what to do next and where I should focus my time.

So one way to deal with the anxiety of change at work is to have work habits in place that allow you to focus on value added work rather than on something else.

What does “work habits” mean in this instance?

Even if You Don’t Feel Like It, Just Do It

Just Do it is still a good mantra. Don’t think so much; but do so much. This is so cliche I know. But it’s true. Just do what you set out to do. Like right now for example, I had great resistance about writing this blog post, but because I’ve tried hard to establish habits since the beginning of the year, so even if I don’t feel like it, I just do it.

Here’s the habit: I take a 50 minute train ride to/from work from Baltimore to Washington DC. When that train starts moving, I open my laptop and start typing. I’ve eliminated the decision of what to do. It’s a Pavlovian response. The train moves, I start writing. I don’t have to think. I just do. Which leads to the next point.

The Ugly First Draft

Once you are into the new corporate structure and you don’t actually like it, then it’s like being faced with an ugly first draft.

Writers face this all the time with their novels. Photographers like me, who do long-term projects, may end up with hundreds of image ideas and image drafts. That’s the ugly first draft.

An ugly first draft is like ending up in a corporate structure that is not optimal. And just like a draft, the corporate structure will need revision. Don’t like it? You could always find the White Spaces in this new corporate structure and fashion a job within it that is more to your liking.

Ignore The Anxiety

If all else fails, just ignore the change with the trust that it will work out in the end. Because you know what? It will always resolve itself. No job environment is perfect. Can you just live with it? If the pace of change is fast, then one year from now, you will be facing another reorganization anyway. And you can start over again.

But A Year Is Too Long

I know a year or even 6 months is too long to hope that things at work will get better. And that’s why you need to take charge of your mindset at work. The way I’m doing it is to focus on one thing and do that with utmost creativity and intensity. I ignore everything else. Once I’m done that, then I move on to the next project and apply creativity and intensity to that next project. I don’t think about what will happen in the future in terms of reorganization or mergers. That’s for the corporate leaders to think about. Our job is to contribute to the most clearly identified project and focus our creativity on that.

And that’s where this blog can help you.

I’ve been an accountant for 25 years, in the back office, doing things behind the scenes. If you are reading this, I’m guessing you’re just like me. Our work will not be recognized in the conventional sense of being promoted to higher levels of authority - a middle manager, a principal, a VP. We don’t seek to climb that conventional ladder. That’s for other people who think that’s a worthy goal.

We are seeking some other type of fulfillment.

What we are seeking is the fusion of art with our jobs.

So what we are really seeking is beauty in the workplace.

And that starts with bringing the Artist Mindset at work.

It’s Your Turn

If you enjoyed this article, why don’t you subscribe to my blog. I’ll continue to write about the fusion of art and work. I believe that combining an artist mindset at work can bring that beauty to the surface. You don’t have to be an artist to think like one at work. I compiled a reading list pdf that might be useful for you.

About the Author

Jonah Calinawan

Hello! I’m Jonah Calinawan, an accountant, artist, and mythologist. I create cyanotype art that makes you think and feeds the soul and write about the quest for a meaningful life through art and mythology.

On August 6, 2020, a night-time dream led me to pursue a Ph.D. in Mythology with a special emphasis on Depth Psychology. I don’t know how grad school connects to my art and writing, but I’m willing to find out. Subscribe for updates.

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