I remember hearing this interesting quote in college: “We become what we think about.” It’s popularly attributed to author Earl Nightingale, but the truth is, while Nightingale does use it in his book, it actually comes originally from another author Napoleon Hill. Both authors wrote motivational books — tomes about how to become more successful in business. But this quote, I think, applies quite well to photography.
“We become what we think about.” It’s simplistic enough that really, it can apply to all aspects of life. If you pause to consider, it becomes clear how people who think often of their loved ones, who care deeply with those thoughts, are mostly quite loving and compassionate people. Unfortunately, you see it in reverse, too. People who nurse old slights habitually, who struggle to let go of perceived wrongs — they sometimes become bitter. People who are highly motivated at work are often the ones who get the promotions first, and people who are driven to tell a great story eventually become authors.
By that same metric, this quote applies really well to photography. The simple truth is, if we think along creative lines often, then we become more creative people. This creative thinking doesn’t have to happen only when we take our cameras out, and it doesn’t even necessarily have to pertain to photography. If you pursue some other art, or if you use creative techniques and tactics to get through tricky problems at work, this helps condition your mind to think along more unusual lines throughout the day, no matter what you are doing. Of course, adding in some daily photography time can’t hurt, even if it’s just time spent learning about new techniques or looking at and thinking about photographs that other people have taken. The point is, you’ll become more creative if you think creatively on a regular basis.
It can apply to our goals, too. It’s not enough to set goals and forget them. If we want to reach those goals, then that takes some thought. We need plans for how to get there, we’ll have to work to achieve them, and maybe we need to even think about smaller goals that need to be achieved along the way in order to reach those major goals. In all of this time spent thinking about our goals, striving toward them, we tend to become more driven — and along the way, more accomplished, too.
Becoming what we think about is an interesting concept, I think. There are surely lots more ways we can apply this to our photography and to our creative selves in general. But the main thing, I think, is to simply stay creative, in whatever form that takes for us as individuals. Constantly thinking about and doing creative things, even if those things are small, will help drive us toward becoming the photographers we want to be.