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. You can read part one here.
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. Also, don't judge your work as you go; don't re-read your writing immediately when you start creating—present flow vs. past judgment. Focus 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.
Self-talk: Inner criticism, self-doubt, or low self-confidence
Often, we're our own harshest critics of our bodies, minds, and hearts. Note these feelings and try to determine their root cause. The only way out is in. Once you acknowledge and verbalize these barriers, they hold less power over your subconscious.
Healthy self-esteem looks like: able to say no, able to accept your strengths and weaknesses, able to express your needs
Low self-esteem looks like: belief that others are better than you, fear of failure
You have something valuable to bring to the world. You are more powerful than you realize. Every aspect of yourself reveals your essence of being. Trust the process.
You are who you are for a reason—never suppress that for anyone else. Either mold or be molded. The life is a canvas for your heart to write upon. You are worthy of happiness, love, and success. Others will form opinions of you, but the harshest critic tends to be ourselves. You’re both good enough and have so much room for growth on this journey. Acceptance is freeing.
I am safe.
I am capable.
I let go of what I cannot control.
I embrace change with vitality, courage, and confidence.
I observe my thoughts without judging myself.
I can detach from negative situations from my past.
I am worthy of love, health, abundance, and joy.
Is the task too overwhelming, uncomfortable, unpleasant, undesirable, or just plain scary? Some of us underestimate effort required until we sit down to do it. Beat analysis paralysis. Perception of a task is everything.
Overwhelm: Take a deep breath. Do tasks that are important and not urgent first. Break down major tasks into smaller ones.
Discomfort: Reframe difficult material as a challenge to be conquered—like a mini-game that falls within your life strategy. Be ready to be uncomfortable. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Know when to take a break or walk away—let intuition guide you. Know yourself to hold steadfast.
Stress: Turn negative energy into a catalyst for action. Let pain shock you to life and transmute the energy into creating something new and beautiful. We all experience some stress, and the proper amount of pressure can spur some of our best work.
Anxiety or fear: Are you willing to put yourself on the line for your values? Fearing what other people will think when you speak your mind can present a major blocker to fulfilling your mission. Trying to please everyone is unrealistic. The beauty of life is that nobody is perfect. The real proof our identity no longer lies in our achievements is being willing to risk failure.
Don't waste cognitive load on trivial tasks and minor decision-making—write them down. Decide what you will do the night before.
Getting sufficient sleep is another huge factor in how our day goes. What is the last thing you do before going to sleep? I noticed that organizing my Pinterest board around 10pm quickly turns into 1am and result in major lethargy the next day.
Diet, exercise, addiction, and dependence on others are other critical components to consider if the days roll by with minimal progress on your goals.
Future Self Journaling
Write your old story
We often take for granted the story that runs in the background of our minds. Our old story is what we tell ourselves to explain how and why things aren't manifesting for us. It keeps us from investing energy in who and what matters most to us and keeps us drifting from our life purpose. It's like a brick wall and can often involve deep-rooted, ego-driven conditioning that takes conscious effort to dismantle and reprogram. The purpose of this exercise is to list the reasons you haven't made the change up until now and to ultimately clear blockages.
Get out a pen and paper and fill in this prompt: "I want to ___________, but ___________."
Here are some examples:
I want to get closer to the people in my life, but my anxiety, introversion, and selfishness get in the way.
I want to build my blog, brand, and business, but I'm afraid to risk my career.
I want to cut down on my technology usage, but I fear I may miss out.
I want to get into the best shape of my life, but my body just isn't what it used to be.
This will probably feel uncomfortable, but work through the resistance. If you find that the old story flows out of you without much effort, this is a sign you possess high self-awareness, and you have high potential to clear the blockages. It's time to move on to the next step.
Your new story shifts your perspective, inspires you to new possibilities, and realigns your energy. It involves statements about the real truth, identifies what about the old story is faulty and why the story is not really true, and provides an alternative perspective on the problem. It also delineates short- and long-term consequences if you continue on this path and don't change. Finally, it links to your ultimate mission and articulates why this work is so important to you, and it ends with an inspiring action to take.
"The truth is, ___________."
Here are some examples:
When I align myself, I'm best able to care for others.
My brand IS my career.
Some days, I lapse into social media addiction.
Being out of shape is a cause, not a consequence of my aging.
"If I continue on this path and don't change, ___________."
I will be dissatisfied with my relationships and feel alone.
I will develop illness that stops me from achieving my mission.
"This mission is important to me because ___________."
Doing what's right is more important than being comfortable.
"From now on, I will ___________."
Surrender to the present moment and have courage to face myself, others, and the world.