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October 2020

Not doing the ‘done thing’

Features Thoughts

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We live in a time where we have a socially ingrained sense of what we should be doing in both our lives and careers, that often stops us from doing what we want to be doing. I will caveat this article with the acknowledgement that some people simply don’t have the choice when it comes to what you should do vs what you want to do, and having a choice most certainly comes from a place of privilege.

There is an internal battle for a lot of us over what we should be doing vs what we actually want to do, and this issue is only amplified by the current education system we have in the UK; one which encourages a set route or path that you should follow. I have certainly battled (and still do) with this notion of should do vs could do when it comes to my own career in the creative industry.

Since graduating in 2018, I’ve had to overcome some of my own, as well as others’, expectations of what I should be doing at each stage of my working life. Towards the end of my third year of university (and after some personally difficult and testing internships), I came to the decision that following the usual career path from design school to the London agency life post-graduation just wasn’t for me.

Having recently won a D&AD award, I felt a huge amount of pressure to meet expectations set for me and go to London and work in an agency. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love London, and completely appreciate that the majority of creative jobs and opportunities are to be found there. However, it just wasn’t right for me and what I wanted out of my life.

After three years of battling with the fact that I didn’t want to do the “done thing”, I finally made peace with my decision. Instantly, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders, and I knew I had made the right choice for myself.

I thought I would share some of my insights and learnings from my experience with not doing the “done thing”, in the hope that I can help someone else feel confident to do the same.


Because after your brain it is the most important tool you have (someone once said this to me at university and it’s stuck with me ever since.) Ultimately you know yourself better than anyone else, so go with that and trust your gut.

Usually, with every decision you have to make, you get an instant feeling as to whether it is right or not. I would say that the gut is a pretty good barometer for telling you what you want, and although sometimes it can feel like it is going against what your brain is telling you, nine times out of ten it is usually right.


When you start thinking in ‘could do’s’ rather than ‘should do’s’ it opens up a whole lot more opportunity for you both professionally and personally. The sky is the limit regarding what you can do and achieve, so at every decision-making stage I would encourage you to just really question what it is that you want, what’s the ultimate goal and what is the best decision you can make to set you on the path to your own success.

Leading on from the point above, everyone’s idea of success looks different, and that’s okay. When I realised this it relieved a huge amount of pressure and allowed me to just make the decisions that were right for me. For some, success might be attributed to money or status, or it could simply be doing a job you love every day. For others, it could be earning enough to support a family, or it could be found doing work that you truly care about – the great news is, none of these are wrong!

Ultimately, doing something because you think it will fulfil someone else’s expectations of you, won’t make you happy or fulfilled. You can continue to push harder at what you think you should be doing, but this often comes at the cost of your own happiness, wellbeing, or mental health (which is THE most important thing).

I do believe that the pandemic may have lifted some of this ‘should guilt’ from people over the past 6-7 months. People have shifted in mindset away from work-work-work to more of a focus on a well-rounded and balanced life. With this in mind, moving forward I would hope that people carry on this self-awareness regarding what is important and what they actually enjoy doing. When you add a little perspective, making these decisions isn’t so scary.

And to end on a (slightly cheesy) albeit accurate and relevant quote from poet William Ernest Henley:

‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.’

This was originally published as an opinion piece written for The Arena.

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