As humans, we will never be satisfied. As creatives, no matter how great a photographer we become, we will never be 100% satisfied with our work. We will always want to achieve better. We want to shoot more. Travel more. Get more social media followers, likes, and prestige.
But how can we ever find satisfaction in our photography, and should we?
Dissatisfaction drives us
Humans couldn’t have gotten to where we are if we were easily satisfied. We wouldn’t have invented cars, the internet, and space ships if we were simply satisfied living in huts.
So part of dissatisfaction is good — it drives us to innovate, and make the world a better place.
Yet on the other hand, dissatisfaction leads to misery. We can become billionaires, own a hundred yachts, and several private islands— but still be depressed.
Happiness isn’t having everything, achieving everything, and having the whole world sing your praises. I think happiness is a combination of achievement and appreciation for your work (credit Tim Ferriss).
You want to achieve great things in your photography. You might want to travel the world, make photos that bring you personal satisfaction, have an exhibition, get a book published, or become ‘internet famous’.
These are all external achievements, which help drive and motivate us. Yet achievement tends to be quite shallow — because once we’ve achieved some, we will always want to achieve more.
And the funny thing is that when we become very very successful, we will be more dissatisfied. Because we start comparing ourselves to others who are even more successful than us. We forget to look back, and see all the others we are more successful than (we always compare ourselves to others ahead of us).
Appreciation is one of the keys to satisfaction in life. Appreciation is finding the joy in every small thing in life. The appreciation for the air, a soft breeze of wind on a hot day, the gentle smile of a stranger, the chance to walk in the streets, snap a few photos, and the appreciation for modern technology.
To combine appreciation with achievement is tricky. We want to make the best use of our natural resources to achieve the best we possibly can. We don’t want to just become Zen monks, and meditate in a cave for the rest of our lives.
Yet how much achievement should we strive towards? And at what point can we just rest “satisfied” — and appreciate what we have, and not strive for more?
I think the solution is this: aim to achieve more (for the benefit of others); not for yourself. Once you work really hard in life to meet all your basic needs, devote the rest of your life helping others.
For me, I have everything I need. I have financial security, a camera, a laptop, a phone, and a group of loved ones that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
Now I know that it is my life’s duty to help empower and help others. I try my best to do this via blogging, making videos, teaching, or producing information that can be useful. My focus of my life is to produce as much useful “open source” information as possible — to help street photographers, regular photographers, and just normal human beings become the best versions of themselves.
So to sum up, the older I get, the less ambitious I am for my self-benefit. But the more ambitious I am to help serve others.
Also at the end of the day, to keep myself motivated, I count my “small wins.” And I’ve found the best way to measure your own achievement isn’t via how may page views, comments, traffic, social media likes, and followers you get. Rather, it is by your own measure of yourself. Whether you can go to sleep, peaceful at night, and knowing that you did everything in your possible ability to do the best creative work to help the largest number of people possible.
Or if you feel like you’ve had a shitty day, just count your other blessings in photography:
- I’m blessed that I have my vision
- I’m blessed I have two feet, so I can walk around, and snap photos
- I’m blessed I have a passion for photography (whereas many people don’t know what their passion is in life)
- I’m blessed to own a camera, when most of the world is starving and living in poverty
- I’m blessed for the internet, so I can potentially share my photos with millions from all around the world
- I’m blessed to be a social animal— to have the chance to collaborate with other photographers and humans in the world
No matter what, there is always something for us to appreciate in photography.
And not only that, but set great goals for yourself in your photography. The quicker you can achieve your self-interested goals, the more quickly you can liberate yourself to help serve the needs of others.
Go forth and create beautiful art,
To find more peace and tranquility in your photography, check out these Happiness & Photography Articles >