As an accomplished professional, what distracting mental clutter is holding you back from advancing your best work?
Maybe you’ve carved your own niche as a professional, business owner, or creative worker. Time is shaped according to what works best for you, rather than having to twist yourself to somebody else’s schedule. Your business is making money, and you’re getting through your to-do list.
Yet it doesn’t feel quite right.
While you’re crafting your business model and establishing yourself as a business artist, there’s still a lack of fulfillment. There might even be a nagging feeling that you’re not quite on the right path. You’re busy, but it also feels like you’re not really getting anything done.
Perhaps you keep having great ideas, but the ideas never get further than the first draft. You know that your business goals are clear and that whatever your project is could conceivably change the future for the better. Yet there’s always another great idea, another way that you can make a difference, and before you know it, you have more ideas than you have time.
Or maybe you’re working so hard, but it doesn’t feel like your team around you are. The little things are starting to build up to feeling active resentment to those around you, and as a result, your personal and professional relationships are suffering. You don’t feel like you have time to stop and take stock of what’s going on around you because if you do, you can’t trust those around you to pick up the slack.
If any of these feel familiar, then you may find that there are some unchecked cognitive patterns that are holding you back from doing your best work.
So what do you do when you fear that your bad habits are taking over?
It takes a willingness to embrace that the current processes that you are using may no longer be serving you to the fullest. It also takes a willingness to concede that your good work isn’t the same as your best work.
Instead of feeling defeated or disheartened, it’s likely time to switch modes.
Saying No to Clutter
Clutter – that is to say the bits and pieces that we collect by the process of living a human life – can cause as much upset to your mental state of working as it does your physical state. Mental clutter can be particularly pervasive, as often these are the habits and patterns that you don’t even know that you’ve picked up, and yet are still holding you back from attaining the fulfillment you need.
In an article on how we process these emotions, Steven Stosny, Ph.D., states “Let me be very clear. Your chances of consistently managing anger, anxiety, resentment, and stress, without becoming a better person, are practically zero.”
So while they can be a natural part of being human, an awareness of how these patterns can negatively impact your workflow is a vital step to creating a world where your productivity is matched by your satisfaction in a job excellently done.
The Cluttering Habits
There are three cluttering patterns of default attention I’ve noticed that get in my way of my growth and in our clients’ way, too.
Desire You find yourself addicted to the spark of a great idea, without the push to follow through. You’re obsessed with improving the world, or your place in it, and you might have a constant desire to be of value to others. To serve others. To be validated by others.
- What if you observed that pattern and every once in a while and said No?
- What if you stepped outside of your daily work life to get perspective on what matters most and what your work needs, and said Yes to that instead?
Fear You’re worried you won’t make enough money, or if you slow down for a second then everything will disappear. You’re worried about what happens if you get the flu, or break your leg, or suffer something long term. You’re afraid you’ll disappoint and let down the people who are relying on you, that you’ll be perceived as a ‘failure’, or as somebody who is unreliable and cannot fulfill their duties.
Healthy doses of the right kinds of fear help optimal performing professionals and entrepreneurs reach beyond their comfort zone and grow, but when you dig into subtler daily patterns of how you act, you might notice a pervasive pattern of unnecessary fear driving you.
- What if you identified this pattern of fear and self-sabotage and said No?
- What if instead of allowing the fear to drive you, you acknowledge the ways that it limits you and your business scope?
Anger Anger can often be hard to quantify because of the numbers of ways that it can manifest – it can be hard to see it for what it is. Instead, it might feel like irritation or agitation. You’re frustrated with those around you, or with yourself and your own performance. In the pursuit of excellence, your anger is turning into a kind of resentment towards other people when they fail to deliver to your standards. You feel terse and easily irritated, and find the joyful moments more elusive.
- What if you observed this pattern every once in a while and said No?
Imagine yourself in a place where you are freeing up your time, skills and energy to dedicate to more productive tasks. What might you focus on with that extra space and scope? Like a vision for a better brand of impact and growth?
At their root, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these behaviors, in moderation. In fact, they likely helped you to define your business and your brand. Where they become a danger is when they dominate your daily thoughts and actions. If you’ve found yourself trapped by these clutter patterns, or you’ve been saying to yourself you’re not developing creative work that matters – be it business, book, or social movement – then start by being mindful of the clutter that you are collecting.
Recognizing that some of these patterns are distractions allows you to redirect your focus where it’s most needed. When you can redirect your distracted attention toward what matters, you set up yourself and your brand for growing with integrity.