How was 2022 for you? How many times have you answered recent surveys asking you to compare the past with now?
While I think it’s good to interpret the past and relate it to the present, I question whether it’s beneficial to obsess about mistakes we’ve made. Of course, we all should learn from our errors, but we don’t need (or want) to shortchange our futures by judging what’s happened previously.
I know that this is easy advice to give but difficult to adopt, but I recommend not letting your fear decide your fate. Fear crawls into our minds like a spider. It spins its web around our thoughts and prevents us from focusing on where we are and where we want to be. I hate spiders. They immobilize me! So if a spider can stop us in our tracks, what else can? Unfortunately, lots of things.
We make dozens of decisions every day, but some of the most important ones have to do with moving forward in our lives and careers without fear. And it’s important to acknowledge that moving with a lack of fear isn’t acting foolhardy or throwing away caution. Instead, it’s choosing to act after acknowledging the fear.
Understanding a priority or setting a goal helps us to find the courage to act. We hear stories about this every day and marvel at the heroism of some people. We celebrate the success they achieve and aspire to follow their examples.
The truth is, you have many choices and a full spectrum of alternatives that only you can use to reach your goals. What are your goals? Following are some options.
Commit To Learning
Unlike wishes and wants, goals are tangible and reachable. They need a long-term, unwavering commitment. Most of us in the design profession accept the responsibility for life-long learning that begins when we graduate.
Do you suffer from test anxiety? I still do! After graduation, six months before the CBD exam, I ordered the manuals and studied every day. Finally, the day came and I arrived at the test center feeling ready. But then fear and doubt crept in. My hands were sweaty and trembling. I couldn’t hold a pencil without dropping it. I couldn’t remember anything and failed the test.
I questioned if bath-kitchen design was the right career. But I was sure of it and decided to keep trying. It took four years to pass the CBD, CKD and NCIDQ exams. My goal wasn’t to be an expert but prove to myself that anything is possible when we make commitments and persist. It’s a pledge to be the best we can be, no matter what we do. Real success is acknowledging that we don’t know something and then persevering to learn it.
Hone Skills And Try New Things
As we progress through our careers, we must try new things to grow into who we can become. It’s saying “yes” before we’re ready, but after we’ve learned the basics and researched the possibilities. It’s a commitment to excellence, going outside our comfort zone to:
- Learn software we’ve never tried
- Expand into an unknown market segment
- Enter design competitions
- Practice new skills without compensation because we know it will pay off later.
Recently, I had an opportunity arise that’s provided wonderful benefits, including an unexpected income. I joined a master class that included people from all over the world. It was fantastic to become acquainted with the other students.
One of my peers was a woman developing a retreat in Saskatchewan, Canada. After several email exchanges, she asked if I’d be willing to help her finish plans for a pole barn. Half of the building will provide storage for farm equipment and the other half will be a multi-purpose area with a full kitchen and an accessible bathroom.
I could have said no, but instead I said yes. Learning CAD software to create the pole barn was exhausting but exhilarating. We’ve had virtual meetings that often last three hours or more. Over five months, we’ve become friends. Each of us has gone beyond our comfort zones. Together, we’re achieving something spectacular that will positively affect everyone who visits the Grasslands education center and retreat.
Manage Time Better
Commitment to excellence includes other activities. There aren’t enough hours in the day to operate a business and read design magazines or self-improvement books, as well as attend professional seminars, listen to podcasts or network with other professionals. But we can learn to manage our time and split our days into manageable chunks. Time management is the hardest thing for me to do consistently, because I find it’s easier to work on one thing until it’s done and then move on. But is this the best approach? Is it better or worse than multi-tasking?
Honestly, both can be bad for us because they’re extremes. Learning to balance our time also helps us to find a balance between our personal and professional lives. When providing services for other people, it’s easy to focus on their needs and goals, but then we can begin to feel like “less than.” Earlier, I advised to say yes, but it’s healthy to learn when to say no.
Pick One Cause to Support
We’ve lived through a lifetime of challenges and changes just in this past year. While we can’t solve the world’s problems, we can choose one cause to help make the world a better place. Non-profit organizations need volunteers, now more than ever. One or two hours – once or twice a month – will help everyone.
We will make a difference when we follow our hearts and give our time to causes that matter to us. What do you love? What can you share? What can you do?
Years ago, my mother gave me a small hand-painted plaque that I keep on my desk as a reminder of her and a lofty goal: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you can.” (John Wesley)
While we don’t know what 2023 has in store for us, we can choose to make it better for ourselves and everyone in our lives. We can’t try harder but can commit to renewed excellence in our profession when we focus on our goals.
I wish you the best new year ever! ▪
Diane Plesset, CMKBD, CAPS, NCIDQ is the principal of D.P. Design in Oregon City, OR and has over 35 years of experience as a kitchen and bath designer. She is the author of the award-winning book, THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling, and is the recipient of numerous design awards. Named a 2019 KBDN Innovator, Plesset has taught Western design to students of the Machida Academy in Japan and has a podcast, “Today’s Home.”