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10 Things You Probably Do That Block Your Creativity

10 Things You Probably Do That Block Your Creativity

If you’re wanting to live a creative life but feel something is holding you back, you’re probably right. And guess what? It’s most likely you. That’s right, for all the obstacles you feel are in your way and block your creativity, it’s often the things you say to yourself that have the biggest impact and keep you stuck.

Today I’d like to share with you 10 things you probably say to yourself that block your creativity.

1. I’m Not an Expert in My Creative Field, So I Don’t Feel Ready to Put Myself out There.

You don’t need to be an expert to put yourself out there. All you need is a unique point of view, and you already have that; we all do. Your creative work is special and ready to share with the world, so stop holding back. You’re already expert enough.

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2. I Don’t Believe in Myself as a Creative Person.

The most powerful thing you can do for your creativity is to believe. When you don’t believe in what you’re doing it shows, and you sabotage your own work in the process. If you want others to believe in your creative work, you need to believe first.

3. I Feel Like It’s Not the Right Time Yet, But I’m Not Sure When it Will Be.

There’s never a perfect time, and if you wait for one you might be waiting your entire life. You can never know for sure when the best time will be, but the truth is the sooner you put yourself out there and start sharing your creativity, the quicker you’ll learn what you need to know to live your ideal creative life.

4. I’m Afraid Things Won’t Work Out.

You can never know if things will work out or not. But you need to trust yourself and believe that what you’re doing is worthwhile enough that whether you succeed or fail, it will be an experience well spent. Life is all about pursuing great experiences, and your creativity is something worth pursuing regardless of the eventual outcome.

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5. I Think About My Past Failures and They Rule My Thoughts.

Constantly rehashing past failures is a sure way to get yourself down. If you’re stuck in the past, it can be very difficult to move forward. Let your past failures be in the past. They taught you valuable lessons that you’ve learnt from. But they don’t need to live in your now.

6. I Don’t Think I’m As Talented As Other People.

Comparing yourself is dangerous because when you compare you are not comparing like for like. You’re comparing someone else’s highlight reel (the very best presentation of their work) to your work in its entirety, warts and all! What looks average to you will often look amazing to others from the outside; it all depends on your perspective.

7. I Am Scared My Friends and Family Will Judge Me and My Work.

Our friends and family usually mean well, but sometimes their judgement can feel harsh. Whether it’s disapproval of your creative life choices, a perfectionist parent who picks at every imperfection, or a friend who thinks they know it all, comments from friends and family can really get you down. Often one bad comment can scar us for years, but it’s important to remember that most people will be encouraging and accepting of your creative work. As for the rest? Ignore them. They likely have their own issues at play.

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8. I Feel Like I Will Make Mistakes If I Start Now.

We all make mistakes. And no matter how long you spend preparing yourself to start, mistakes will still be made. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process. Go easy on yourself, and decide that it is ok to make a mistake.

9. I Feel Guilty When I Do Creative Work Because It’s Not Productive.

If your creativity isn’t making you money and something else is, it’s easy to feel guilt over doing your creative work because it isn’t productive enough. But you know what’s more important than productivity? Your happiness. Don’t let the pursuit of productivity rule your life. Start living and doing what you love because that’s what really matters.

10. I Need to Know All the Answers Now Before I Start.

You can never know all the answers before you start. No matter how much research and preparation you do, things will pop up that you never could have imagined. When you search for answers before you start, you are really just estimating what you need to know. To get most of the answers, you need to just dive in and start. There’s no other way to find them.

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Can you relate to any of all of these? Do you think saying some of these things to yourself might block your creativity and keep you stuck? Share your experiences of things that block your creativity in the comments below.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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