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Musing on UX

On choosing to be a UX designer

A new year calls for a new beginning. Rather than going straight into goal setting this year like I always do, I decided to take a moment to reflect on how I can do goal-setting differently this time.

When goal setting goes awry

in 2017 I set a kind of goal that snapped back at me when it was “achieved”.

My goal was to “be 100% location independent for a year and travel to/work in different countries for a year”. Sounds pretty meaningful and fulfilling right?

When I first had this goal in mind, I was very motivated. It seemed challenging and unattainable and propelling for self-growth. When I found an opportunity that allows me to be 100% remote regardless of timezones, I thought the goal was working its magic to mobilize the entire universe to help me achieve it.

After 12 months of setting, striving for and finally achieving this goal, I was utterly unimpressed with what it delivered. Not only did the process felt empty and too easy, in the end, I didn’t have the big, meaningful moment of epiphany that I thought I’d have. I’m also sent into a deep panic about what’s next: venturing to even more countries? A bigger paycheck?

Was I doing it wrong? Was the goal not big enough? Not challenging enough? Not ambitious enough?

After weeks of reflecting, I realized something I’d rather not admit: the goal-setting didn’t serve me right.

It was the kind of goal that quenches the thirst of my ego, instead of fuelling my soul. It wasn’t an authentic goal that my true self wanted. In a way it’s the same kind of materialistic goal that people have for saving up $xxxx to buy a house, to hit a sales target for go on a luxury vacation, to lose x pounds to fit into that dress.

To be fair my goal of being location independent was connected to seemingly lofty values: freedom of movement, a constant quest for personal development, and higher productivity.

However, on close inspection, you will see that these are self-servicing ego based values. If I’m to have an honest conversation with myself, the end goal of this whole activity was to be a better, more superior version of myself, especially compared to my peers who aren’t living life this way.

It will not be satisfying because the ego always wants more. I will never be fully at peace with myself if my goal is to be more free, more rich, more fit, or more self-sufficient. I’ll always be anxious for more success because no small success is never enough.

Is there a remedy for this?

Now going back to values: what is the antithesis of ego-based values?

For me, it’s spiritual values. It’s the kind of spiritual belief that shrinks the ego to feel rather small, like a drop in the ocean. In so doing it dissolves into the ocean and becomes the ocean itself.

Spiritual values will connect you to a truer meaning of your modest, transient life that offers a glimpse of a higher being. It calls for your devotion to continuously add to what’s truly valuable to not just your own, but the entire universe’s humble existence.

Your dedication to spiritual values will break down your egos and open up your eyes to see what really matters. Your own opinion won’t matter very much, nor does winning an argument. Being better or being right is beside the point. What really matters is your service to the dedication, and the journey it creates.

Think about going to the gym to get fit. Much of the experience will be agonizing and the endurance of it is only possible with the promise of a sweet moment of achievement. That is the journey of pursuing on ego-driven values. In this scenario, satisfaction is about the achieving the end goal.

The journey of pursuing spiritual values is about the “being” on the journey. The service to the goal satisfies you as you connect with something beyond yourself. Each time you commit an act of service to your spiritual values you are fulfilling your goal. You are concerned with the commitment to servicing your spiritual values, rather than achieving a measurable end target.

What does it have to do with being a UX Designer?

In this fast-changing world, we might need to wear many hats in our career.

Reflecting on my work life, I have had moments of victory of varying nature. For example, being involved in an Emmy award-winning documentary, helping a big international client exceed their sales target, delivering 200x user growth etc are a few things that I talked about when asked about my “achievements”.

To be honest, though, the most satisfying moments of my rather diverse work life was when people read what I wrote, and it sparked a conversation. It made me see that the power of our collective consciousness, and the power of a minuscule action such as an article to connect to a broader humanity.

To me being a UX Designer is not much different from being an architect. To construct built environment is to serve humanity with a better existence. To provide shelter, to create collective identities, to instill meaning, to invoke a sense of belonging, and offer a venue for others’ self-actualization.

Towards that end, no matter how small the UX work is, or what’s my role in it, will hugely satisfy me. It will not be easy, and it will not be grand. But it will teach me to stay grounded, humble and authentic and only devote my energy to what truly matters.