Are You Trapped By Your Success?
If you’re ambitious and successful — but STILL not doing your true creative work, here’s what to do.
Are you trapped by your success?
A lot of creative, ambitious people are.
I remember talking to a creative director just back from her college reunion. Her friends were publishing books, winning awards, and teaching at universities.
“And,” she said, “I’m writing this.” She gestured at a pharmaceutical ad.
There was a hint of regret. Not soul-baring agony: she was a naturally cheerful person, and she had plenty to be happy about.
She was a rock star in her own world — a talented, fast-rising, well-liked, and very successful creative director.
If, deep down, your “success” doesn’t feel like TRUE success — if you haven’t succeeded at your TRUE dream — that’s a message from your soul to go for more.
But, the truth was, she WASN’T satisfied. There was a hunger her advertising work wasn’t satisfying. She wanted to create something truly her own.
I see this often with new clients. They’re successful, with jobs, businesses, or incomes most people would envy. And, they’re trapped.
They want to do their own creative work, but they’re afraid: I’m successful here — what if I give it up and don’t make it? I’ll be nothing.
If you’re feeling this, let me share a few thoughts.
1. Your creative desire is the key to TRUE success and fulfillment.
If, deep down, your “success” doesn’t feel like TRUE success — if you haven’t succeeded at your TRUE creative desire — that’s a message from your soul to go for more.
Ignoring this soul message doesn’t make it go away — it just pushes your desires beneath the surface. Ultimately this leads to frustration, lack of fulfillment, lower confidence, and a deadening of your life force.
Your soul’s desire to do your true creative work isn’t a silly pipe dream.
It’s embedded in your soul because it’s a key part of the path you’re meant to follow in this lifetime. It’s part of a deeper wisdom that guides you towards true success and fulfillment.
2. Your choices are not black and white.
The choice is not “ignore my creative dreams” or “cash in my 401k, abandon my family, and move to a deserted mountain cabin.” Fear — and the success trap — just make it feel that way.
You don’t have to quit your money-making work to make it as an artist. (In fact, I generally advise keeping other income sources going for a while.)
You can reconfigure your work schedule, find better clients or a better job, change things right away or over time.
The choice is not “ignore my creative dreams” or“cash in my 401k, abandon my family, and move to a deserted mountain cabin.” Fear — and the success trap — just make it feel that way.
You can make any number of choices to design a life that supports your creative work. I’ve done it, my clients have done it, and you can do it too.
3. When you COMMIT to your creative work, opportunities you can’t see now will appear.
When you make a choice and go for it, the universe responds with support — often in unexpected ways.
Here’s a sampling of unexpected opportunities that appeared when my clients committed to their visions:
A surprise severance package (giving her the financial support to pursue her dreams).
Publicity from a prominent expert in her field (leading to over $20k in sales).
A dream client who found her “out of the blue” on the web ($6k right away, then more in ongoing work).
Getting featured at top film festivals.
4. Committing to your dreams doesn’t mean casting yourself into the complete unknown.
There are reliable things you can do to turn your dreams into actual reality.
Ways to tune in to the Real You and get guidance on what’s truly right for you.
Ways to get “ downloads” on career shortcuts — so you can take dramatic career leaps very quickly.
Ways to find opportunities that feel truly miraculous.
All while doing your truest creative work.
It all begins when you say no to the “success trap” — and yes to yourself.
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Emmeline Chang is writer, coach, and creative mentor who helps artists do their truest creative work and succeed in their careers.
Through partnering with Emmeline, her clients have made dramatic career leaps: finding agents, winning awards, publishing regularly in The New Yorker, being featured in the Tribeca Film Festival, and more.
Emmeline has led a copywriting team at a Madison Avenue ad agency, run a successful writing business, and taught fiction and nonfiction at well-known NYC writing schools and workshops. She has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, Big City Lit, and Bklyner. Emmeline graduated from Princeton University, has an MFA in writing from Columbia University, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two sons.
Her website is www.emmelinechang.com.
All photos in this article are Creative Commons-licensed or are owned by/legally licensed for use by Emmeline Chang.