‘Research’ – I got it all wrong.

Every time I have a new idea that I want to bring to life and every time I sit down to make it happen, I can feel a strong pull to research it first. See if it is already out there. See what is out there already. And this habit doesn’t always work like a wonder sometimes it simply demotivates me to take any action on that rather exciting idea. Today, I want to deconstruct how I feel about this habit of researching, why I think it is no longer serving me and if it is something you’d like to question too. I have been wondering that either I got it all wrong or maybe I was taught wrong. I have previously briefly mentioned this in my ‘a note on originality’ post and I’ll be expanding on that idea here.

I picked up this habit of researching during my Bachelor studies in Product Design. This is how we were supposed to approach solving problems when it comes to designing a product that serves the people for whom it is designed for – for every problem that we were given to find a solution for, we were supposed to research first and figure out what solutions have already been advised and which ones are and aren’t working and then figure out better (than them) solutions. Part of that market research was to make sure that you don’t end up finding already tried, failed or partially working solutions but to take next steps on their work, use that as guiding principle – foundations so to speak and build on what’s already been built before. Not sure if that was the intention there but this is how I understood it.

After graduation when my real work started I couldn’t let go of this habit of market researching everything before even trying to start coming up design solutions for any creative project that I was working on. After all these years only now I can see how it has been playing a role for me in staying small and question whether we were taught wrong or I got it all wrong.

Why do I think this habit of research before you even start your version of the product does more harm than good?

Product term here is loosely used to refer to any kind of creative projects you are working on. I believe when we start working on anything by looking at what’s already been done before we somehow confine our imagination and end up putting ourselves in boxes. I feel strongly against anything that somehow makes me feel like I’m being put into a box. When we allow ourselves to find and design a solution to the given problem first by ourselves we can allow the possibility to look at the problem in an entirely different light which someone else might have not yet tried. No, I am not suggesting this way we’ll end up being more original. I don’t think any ideas are entirely original. (Read more about my thoughts on originality here). All I am suggesting is that maybe this way we’ll be able to try on new perspectives and new possibilities with more ease without any external pressure or expectation to make it better than anything that ever existed before.

When I started the 100 day project, I thought I will use all those secret boards of the things I have pinned over the course of years thinking that I want to paint them someday. I found myself constantly browsing and building on what’s been already built before. It became clear that the habit of researching is doing more harm than good. I felt like I’m making 2nd class versions of something that’s already been made before.

This is what I’m learning: When it comes to painting and creative projects other than product design it makes much more sense to not market research instead tune in and listen to your intuition more, trust that you are on the right track and that you’ll figure it out as you go.

My own experience suggests every time I start something new and if I choose to not research what’s already been done before starting, finding the perfect ways or structure to do such creative projects in a certain way, I end up creating my version of that thing. Probably not the best of what’s already been done before but the best version of it that I could make.

I firmly believe it shouldn’t be done when we start the project as for me, it appears as that is the only right way to do it, an only possible way to do it and then my head is stuck I can’t come up with anything that feels new, authentic and real to me. When I do some research beforehand, I feel stuck in that vision of what already exists and how I end up convincing myself that there must be a reason it has all been done in a certain way in certain shapes, colors or whatever elements I can see common out there.

Why do we now feel the need to research it first?

When a new idea comes to us it feels a little vague and unreal at first. We are looking for some kind of structure or blueprint to bring it to life. I get it. I have done the same for years. I still end up doing it sometimes. But now with repetitive experience, I now have learned and accepted that starting is sometimes the hardest part.

Also, I believe our need to fit in and be appreciated plays a role here too. We subconsciously don’t want to bring anything to life that would not fit in, that would stand out. At least that is the case for me. I have always felt the need to lay low and somehow find ways to fit in rather than standing out and claiming some space for myself or for the work that I do until I consciously started making efforts to change that mindset.

Another reason that I could pinpoint from my own personal experience is that when I go into the research mode what I am really looking for is validation. Validation of my idea and proof that it is going to work. Also, support and structure around how I can make it happen. When we look for the validation outside of us we give away the power and the essence of that idea is lost somewhere in the mayhem of what’s already been done before.

‘The reason you have a hard time trusting your intuition is because you are still convinced that some outside authority knows better than you.’
– Maryam Hasnaa

To conclude, if you think this habit of researching is doing more harm than good then it is a sign that you need to start questioning it too. Try not doing it once in a while and start cultivating a connection with your own intuition and trust that you’ll figure it all out as you go. Give yourself and your creativity some space to come to the surface through you.

If you take anything from this post today, be it this:

There are no blueprints when it comes to living a wholehearted creative life.

There is no shortcut to the path of discovery.

It really is about the process instead.

If you are looking for a guiding light, look inside, dig deep and start trusting yourself. Learning to follow your intuition is your guiding light.

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