Voices are everywhere. Some are loud, some softer. Some are angry, hateful, and painful to acknowledge while others are more nagging and frustrating than damaging. They are subtle and, truth be told, you’ve probably learned to function even with the voices.
No, I’m not talking about the medical diagnosis of schizophrenia. That's a very real issue and certainly not one I would dare to make light of. I'm talking about the creative, progress killing version of this that every creative I've ever talked to, read about, or heard of experiences. I’m talking about those voices in your head that rail against ideas, creativity, and progress. If we’re honest, we all would admit to having voices that do their best to talk us out of progress and growth. Here are just a few of the most common phrases these negative voices use to wage their warfare on your dreams:
You aren’t good enough to be called a (insert ambition here). (For example, you aren’t a good enough writer or photographer to call yourself a writer or photographer.)
There are other people with more resources and experience that do the exact same thing you are trying to do, and they do it far better than you ever could. So what’s the point in trying?
You look like such a fake when you act like you’re a writer (again, insert ambition here), you know you aren’t really a writer so just stop already.
Do you have any idea what people are going to think of you when you try to do that? You are going to look so stupid.
The risks and effort you are going to have to put into this are so great that it’s really not worth it.
You don’t have the discipline to actually make something work for more than a couple days. Why even start?
If you are going to do it, it must be perfect. If it’s not, you’re a failure. Better not risk it!
Your opinions and outlook don’t matter. Don’t waste people’s time.
These are thoughts that bounce through my head countless times a day. Left unchecked, they are depressing at best - damaging enough to kill dreams at worst. If we ever want to accomplish our dreams, we must overcome all of the negative voices that bounce around between our ears.
4 Steps to Press that Mute Button
Recognize them before they speak
The very first step in combatting the insurgent voices in your head is to recognize them. Seems a bit too simple, huh? Well, maybe, but if you are anything like me you can spend a solid couple days in a weird creative and emotional funk before you even realize it! Most of the time I realize it right about the time that my wife starts getting tired of my moping around the house. Crazy, I know, it’s a sixth sense I have. (I’m convinced it’s a self-preservation thing that has helped keep me alive and relatively uninjured for going on 15 years of marriage.) Anyway...
It’s sad but true! I can be firmly under the control of these negative voices for DAYS before I realize what’s going on. You have to learn to recognize negativity the second it starts to creep into your mind and root it out.
Examine their truth
I don’t propose an “ostrich with its head in the sand” approach to life. (Quick side note: There has never been a documented case of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand. Most likely because they would quickly suffocate.) So, when a negative voice makes itself heard, take a moment to see if there’s any truth to it. If it is something that can be changed or improved upon, accept it as constructive criticism and move on accordingly. If it’s a voice that is speaking one of the messages above, don’t dwell on it! Sweep that mess on out the door and move on with your plans to crush it - whatever your pursuit is. Of course, determining whether or not to listen to the voices is something that only you can decide, but it’s important to give yourself permission to ignore negativity that exists solely for the purpose of derailing your plans and progress. Ignore negativity, acknowledge and incorporate constructive feedback, and keep pushing on towards the fulfillment of your goals.
Stick close to your community
A community is vital. It is within a community that you’ll find positive voices other than your own to provide equilibrium, encouragement, and valuable feedback on your progress. When you are feeling down or lost, these positive, supportive voices can be the difference between continuing your journey and cashing in on the progress you’ve made thus far and tapping out of the game. Engaging in a community might force you outside your comfort zone and take a little more effort than going it alone, but the benefits far outweigh the effort!
Use those negative voices for good
I’ve had to start training myself to be thankful for every negative thought I think. Why be thankful for something negative? Maybe it's because I'm really weird - always a safe bet! Mainly because with the way my wacky mind works I try to recognize negative thought as a trigger. I use that trigger to remind myself of exactly how blessed I am! It’s counter-intuitive and maybe a little odd, but it works! The next time one of your voices start spouting nonsense, turn that mess around! Replacing negativity with thankfulness and positivity will eventually become a habit that will help you in every aspect of life.
Now, I know we could spend all day discussing the issues and tendencies of creatives and entrepreneurs, but these are some simple steps that can help quickly if you’ll apply them. Are there any tips or tricks you’ve found to help you overcome the negative voices that actively oppose your progress? I’d love to hear them!
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