If you’re creating something important (but feel stalled and disgruntled), here are 3 ways to keep your mojo in flow
This post is for anyone who is creating something – a podcast, a blog, a book, a business, a social media following, a career that makes you light up. More specifically, it’s for anyone who has felt deflated or questioned themselves during the creative process. You’re not alone, superstar.
Here are three mojo defibrillators if you’ve ever uttered the words, ‘What is the bleeping point?’
Challenge 1: I’m not making any progress, and therefore I must suck
There is a lag between work and result. Hoping that your work and your community will develop at Polaroid speed is a surefire way to get discouraged. Before you quit as a self-proclaimed loser, ask yourself: Am I actually in the lag zone?
We are such mean bosses to ourselves, especially when nothing seems to be happening, in spite of our hard work. The good news? Chances are, you don’t suck (even if it feels like you do). Lets face it, working for a meanie pants never brings out the best work in anyone.
How to Un-Suck
So here’s an invitation: Think about the amazing, inspiring, super-understanding boss, coach or mentor you’d love to have – then go and be that boss to yourself.
How would that amazing person support you when you were feeling disheartened in the lag zone? What would they say? How would they keep you motivated? Would they give you a pep talk? A reframe? A day off? A hug? Maybe they’d suggest that you get some help, a coach, a virtual assistant, a weekly massage.
It’s so useful to get out of yourself for a moment, to see from another perspective, even if that perspective is imaginary. Our emotions create mental smoke bombs, but this little trick (what would a great boss do in this situation?) can clear things up quickly.
So here’s the mojo pump: Become a kinder supporter of yourself, because we’re always occupying the space between work and result. Creating something of value is a marathon, not a sprint (my great me-boss reminds me of this every day).
Challenge 2: I’m busy all day, but I’m not getting any traction
There’s work – the dull, unsexy, necessary grind – and there’s busy-ness masquerading as the work. A tip off for identifying busy-ness: it often starts like this, “I’ll just quickly….” (check Facebook; rearrange my workstation; floss; throw on a load of whites; trim my cuticles). This is a seemingly innocuous zone, this busy-work, that lulls you into feeling productive. But really, in your heart of hearts, you know it is avoidance.
Your real work can’t emerge if you don’t keep showing up. It’s so simple that it’s analog.
How to Bust those Distractions
I make it a game to identify my mental minions, the name I give those seemingly innocent urges.
Try this. Challenge yourself to notice the urge to pivot from the work – the siren call of the breakfast dishes, or “researching” something online (OMG those dancing Chihuahuas are adorable!).
When the urge comes, notice it, then expose it: “AHA, you again, trying to hook me” (or language it however you like). The method is simple and effective: Notice, then bust. You can even put a Post-it note on your computer with big minion eyes as a reminder.
When I call out an urge, I smile and allow it to pass. If I need a boost of energy when I notice the mental minion, I might even break into song, doing a Freddie Mercury – ‘Don’t stop me now; I’m having such a good time, I’m havin’ a ball!’
Yes, I mostly work alone…
So here’s the mojo pump: Notice and disrupt the urge, whatever that means for you. Having fun with the lure of distraction also helps to bust it (hence the Freddie Mercury). If you struggle with mental minions too, I’m podcasting on this soon – stay tuned.
Challenge 3: My self-belief is having a Chernobyl-scale meltdown
The good news? Self-doubt is totally normal. Knowing that drops everyone’s shoulders a couple of inches. The bad news is that self-doubt is paralyzing, unhelpful and can be darned tricky to shake off. It kinda barnacles onto you, meaning you can spend days, weeks, even years in this mode, generating plenty of stories for your stuckness and lack of talent.
How to switch gears
Noticing is important here too. Again, try making it a game. Ask yourself: Am I identifying with any of the seven self-abusive dwarves? (Cranky, Self-Judgey, Mopey, Doubtful, Weepy, Apathetic and Clueless).
Notice your self-talk when your belief is in meltdown.
Maybe you’re in Victim mode, which might sound like this: I’m working SO hard and it’s just not happening for me. She’s rocking it, but she’s got money and support and better hair. Some people have all the luck.
In victim mode, you have zero responsibility for fixing or taking ownership of anything. Nada. This is where the wallowing can start, and where productive work and creativity taper off.
We also have a Persecutor mode – ever notice that? It often follows the victim mode, and it’s mean and has no sense of humour. It might say things like, ‘Who do you think you are?’ Or ‘I told you that you’d fail at that. Did someone say LOSER?’
The Victim and the Persecutor get all frothed up when you’re doing work that matters. If you’re creating something that feels risky in a good, I’m-nervo-cited-kind-of-way, you can bet these two killjoys will gatecrash the party.
So here’s the mojo pump: Instead of trying to make them disappear, take a leaf from Brené Brown’s work and reserve the victim and persecutor a seat. That’s right, save ’em a seat. Expect that they’ll show up (because they always do). But here’s the kicker – you can acknowledge their presence, but you don’t have to take their feedback.
Like Brené says, if you’re not in the ring getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.
So yes, I hear you Victim and Persecutor, but I’m not listening.
- Try being the ultimate self-supporter when your mojo dips. What would an understanding, kind, inspired and motivated boss or mentor do to support you in this situation? Then go and do that for yourself.
- When the mental minions try to disrupt your work, feigning urgency, notice the urge and disrupt it. Try using humour (“Don’t stop me now!”).
- And notice your self-talk when your mojo has gone AWOL. Have the victim and persecutor invited themselves to tea? Acknowledge them (sadly, they never go away), but they are not getting their butts kicked in the ring. You are. That means you get to choose whose feedback you listen to.
Keep shining, superstar. We need what you are making.