What's your story?
Barriers to managing, expanding, and investing energy are often rooted in the stories we tell ourselves. The fragile ego is expert at intentionally avoiding high stakes action, but this can keep us from reaping high payoffs. Thankfully, we are agents of change and have the ability to rewrite this story to better serve our purpose. Mindset is key.
Welcome to part two of a six-part series on shifting consciousness to maximize productivity.
In this article, we will discuss identifying and addressing barriers to maximize your creative output and achieve your definition of success.
What's holding you back? Evaluate your current state of being; check for a mismatch between emotions, thoughts, and actions.
After years of introspection on barriers to living my best life, I identified 8 key factors that have held me back at various stages in my life:
Not enough time
Survival mode / feeling lack of control
Attachment to outcome or expecting certain results
Self-talk: inner criticism, self-doubt, or low self-esteem
Negative emotions: overwhelm, discomfort, anxiety, stress, fear
"I don't have enough time" is a common statement that relinquishes individual responsibility. Often, this excuse is a coping mechanism for some other stressor in life, such as a busy schedule. Everyone has the same number of minutes and hours in a day to work with. The arrow of time is unavoidable, but this can create a sense of urgency and motivation to accomplish as much as possible in our lifetime. Time is in our control through:
Our attention and what we choose to focus on
How we value our time and what we do with our time
The good news is if you optimize your attention, you can find yourself with more leisure time. Pace yourself so you don't burn out—everything is happening in perfect timing, even before we realize it.
Feeling uninspired? Maybe it's time to take a break. Procrastination can serve important purposes, and it is something to be hacked rather than beaten. Downtime can repair DNA and result in more efficient work and fluid creativity than forcing yourself to do a task despite internal turmoil.
Reframe lack of self-discipline as lack of desire. You simply don't feel called to do something in a given moment, and that's neither good nor bad, simply a product of you following your intuition.
Taking breaks can lead to fresh eyes and more ideas. Make sure your basic needs are met. In the meantime, something major could be incubating, waiting to surface.
The cycle repeats until you address it. Accept your shifting motivation, drive, and priorities. Recognizes the mismatch and follow your fire. Pursue your purpose, even the smallest moments, because that builds up to major results.
Know yourself, know the why, the purpose behind what you believe and do. Who are you? What are your personal interests, preferences, and tendencies? What are your biggest goals, wishes, and dreams? Why? What's your purpose? Pinpoint where the success and fulfillment comes from. If personal conviction resonates way harder than any external validation, you're probably onto something. You will be less likely to give up in the face of setbacks. Reconnecting with your purpose every day is a powerful ritual to keep you on track with your life's mission.
To align with purpose, we have to know where we're going in order to know where, why, and how to invest our energy.
What lies before us and after us are tiny compared to what's within us.
We can't fill others' cup when our own cup is empty.
Figure out why you lose momentum and don't finish projects. If you want success, become comfortable with failure. After setbacks, dust yourself off and jump back into the game. Passions tend to naturally involve perseverance because the process provides way more fulfillment than the results, and that fuels excellence. It's a win-win.
If you're bored, do something novel. If you're trying to write, reading a book is a great way to learn more about your topic. When you feel creatively stifled, witness some art. You may just get new ideas and be inspired.
Survival mode / Lack of control
If your life situation seems to have flown off the rails, such as in the case of poor health, heartbreak, financial or legal troubles, it's easy to feel miserable, helpless, lost, or stuck. Know you are allowed to feel this way, it's okay to not be okay, and that your feelings are valid. Even if it's hard to see right now, your life has taken this course for a reason, and soon your struggles will make you stronger and lead you where you need to be. They can even inform your purpose and be transmuted into gold that can help others.
As Ryan Holiday says, "the obstacle is the way." Eckhart Tolle argues in his book The Power of Now that we still have ultimate control over this present moment and the power to free ourselves from the mental suffering the time-bound mind imposes.
You are not your anger, grief, shame, or guilt, and observing and understanding them helps to let these emotions flow past you. You have the choice of whether to focus on health, love, abundance, and growth, and this mindset can help you recover more quickly and smoothly. Don't underestimate the power of belief. Despite the poor life context, we still have power over where to direct our attention—ultimately, we have the ability to breathe through pain, which in turn can shift our life course for the better.
Attachment to outcome or expecting certain results
Holding expectation in mind before starting your project suffocates creativity. It's often easier to generate great ideas with an empty page than a pre-filled one—one's active, and the other is passive. Other times, it's useful to build on existing progress. Keep your creation and revision phases separate so as to avoid self-censorship. Focus on flowing with the present, on feeling and experiencing this moment. Keep reflecting, iterating, growing, refining your process. You will continually improve. Also, don't do things to please other people—do them because they truly leave you fulfilled and energized.