How to Overcome Fear & Let Your Creativity Flourish

How to Overcome Fear & Let Your Creativity Flourish

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” – Sven Goran Eriksson

When you are happy you are confident, and you make choices that give you a better chance at success. When you procrastinate and resist change, that’s fear taking over.

It’s difficult to pull up that creativity anchor and let the “happy you” set sail.

Your fears are just trying to protect you from emotional pain. It’s self-preservation.

This is a weird dynamic that can stunt us from creating great stuff.

My Story

I was afraid of trying to get two of my novels published.

I didn’t want to put the time and effort into contacting agents only to be rejected (sad view, but true).

It was more important to me to avoid rejection than it was to make my novels a success.

I’m no longer afraid, but that’s because I’ve taken baby steps to overcome this. I’ve developed a blog that is read by 10’s of thousands of people. I realize that nothing I create will be perfect.

It came down to letting go of my fear in order to allow success to happen.

Your fear is only trying to protect you from the pain, but it is also holding you back from being truly happy.

After studying my own fear, I was able to create a system that’s simple and easy to apply in almost every circumstance.

Overcoming Fear

1. Listen to your self-talk.

2. Know that whatever you feel is okay.

3. Create a plan you can emotionally invest in.

4. Take small actions.

5. Review your progress.

6. Find the fun.

The only way you will overcome your fear and allow your creativity to flourish is by practicing. If you want to master your emotional intelligence, you have to have fun with the process. The great writers, musicians, and gardeners all make mistakes, but they still have fun improving on their mistakes.

Let’s break down how you can handle your fear and enjoy the process of being creative.

1. Listen to your self-talk

Your fear starts with how you communicate with yourself. If you feel energized by an idea but your thoughts start tearing the concept apart before you even begin, you will lose motivation quickly.

You need to sit down with yourself and watch the patterns that arise. Are you worried that people will laugh at your effort? Are you afraid that you will fail?

By sitting down with your thoughts and noticing what occurs, you will have a better grasp on what is stirring your fear.

2. Know that whatever you feel is okay

Your feelings have a right to be there. They are, after all, trying to protect you. It’s important to be compassionate you’re your emotions because you can’t change these feelings.

If you expect to overcome your fear, you have to accept your feelings and find a way to move in a more positive direction.

I’ve struggled with allowing my emotions to be as they are without trying to force myself to feel happier. I used to make the mistake of trying to force new feelings. For example I was rejected for a key note address because they wanted to take the concept in a new direction. I thought I was going to land the job, but instead I had to face this disappointment. I went for walks and practiced Yoga like a mad man trying to change my feelings. It wasn’t until I accepted this disappointment that I was able to move on.

3. Create a plan you can emotionally invest in

You can choose to wallow, or you can choose to create a plan of action that will focus your energy. You have to create a plan that will pull your emotions toward action. If you can’t get excited about the next plan then you will stay stuck.

I used to constantly make the mistake of trying practically the same plan without any changes. It’s important to create a new plan that will give you a better chance at success. This new plan should get that internal motivation back up and energized for a renewed effort.

Your new plan has to be more important than the previous pain of the last failure or else you won’t take action.

4. Take small actions

You have to take small actions that will help you build confidence. If you’ve created a plan that you can emotionally invest in, now it’s time to break down the goal into smaller pieces in order to quell your fear.

You must take actions on small goals because this makes it easier to feel successful. If you look at the project as a whole, it’s going to feel overwhelming. A series of small achievements will build confidence. When you believe you can accomplish a tough goal, you will have a better chance at success.

Once you are chipping away at the project you will gain momentum. A set back can easily slow that momentum down, so you need to make sure that you take the time to assess your accomplishments.

5. Review your progress

After completing small tasks, you should review your progress. Your motivation will dwindle if you don’t. So take the time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished and think about how you can be even more productive.

Fear is a tricky emotion. Fear may force you to see the negative in what you’ve accomplished, bringing down your mood and motivation. Remember #2 (Know that whatever you feel is okay). Acknowledge these feelings, but at the same time keep looking for the positive in what you’ve done.

I’ve been working on an ebook for this site. I want to give more in depth information about the emotional development that you can achieve at work. I have a tendency to finish a chapter, look back over it and internally beat myself up (Don’t do this to yourself). I’ve learned to stop this negative behavior (on most days).

Once these feelings pass, I settle myself and ask ‘What needs to be fixed?’ I’ll then start taking baby steps (#4: Take small actions) to keep the process moving forward.

6. Find the Fun

The last step is to make the work as much fun as possible. If you aren’t having fun overcoming your fear then you are losing out on some amazing self teaching moments.

You need to discover a way to find the fun.

I used to hate editing. I would rather create something new all the time. The problem with disliking the editing process is that my unedited writing sounds like a 9th grader wrote the piece.

When I edit I imagine myself as one of my favorite writers (Bukowski, Trunk, or Hemmingway), put on some masic (Mozart, Bach, or Beethoven), practice 60 seconds of deep breathing, put a little thanks into the universe for giving me the skills to reach wonderful people such as yourself and then I get started.

This set-up releases the hidden anger and impatience and allows me to enjoy the editing process.

Putting it All Together

Your fear is the heaviest detriment to your creativity. It can be an anchor on your imaginative thoughts.

When you let your fear hold you back, you are letting your emotions dictate your confidence.

You need to appreciate your fears and realize how they can help you, and then you need to let them go. This will allow you to do the great work that will bring you so much joy. You will soon find that every effort will fill you with so much passion that you can’t be stopped.

What do you do to let go of your fear so you can be creative at your job?

Photo by Pareerica

Karl Staib

Karl Staib writes about unlocking and kicking open the door to working happy at his own blog: Work Happy Now! If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his Free 10 week E-course or follow him on Twitter.

16 Comments

  1. That first one about listening to your self talk is very effective in my experience. I regulatory work with clients to help them change their emotional reactions, and it always starts with listening to, than changing the self talk. This is the best way I know to recondition ourselves and create new thinking patterns.

    Reply
    • Hi Eduard, Self talk is so important. When we listen the the thoughts and emotions below the actions we can see why are are or aren’t successful. The more we practice the more we can improve.

      Reply
  2. I think it’s really important to allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling–but it can also become unhealthy. That’s when sadness and anger turn to depression and anxiety. Trying to change your feelings is next to impossible if you don’t change your thinking. You’ve got to change your negative self-talk to change your feelings.

    When you’re afraid, you can usually relate those feelings back to your self-talk. When I’m afraid of a blank canvas, it’s usually because I’m telling myself, “You’re not good enough. Who do you think you are trying to be an artists?” When I can get a grip on that inner critic and change those negative thoughts to positive ones, I give myself room to be creative and work without fear.

    This is a great post with a lot of helpful advice–thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Hi April, Our inner-critic can be overwhelming if we don’t take time to process these thoughts. We have to be open to allowing ourselves to be free to create anything we want without worrying about what we or other people think of our work. The more room we allow for creativity the easier it is to get into the zone and do amazing work.

      Reply
  3. Nice article.

    I like #4. Sometimes our greatest barrier to success is never starting. Inaction is a decision to fail.

    Reply
    • Hi Bill, We have to keep “shipping” as Seth Godin likes to say otherwise we let the lizard brain take over.

      Reply
  4. Fear does hold me back often and this leads to low levels of self-confidence. Positive self talk is what can kill the fear in you and will motivate you to achieve your goal. When fear overtakes your emotions then simply relax , take it easy . Fear will fade away on its own . This is another way to stay motivated .
    Here’s a test , is quite rleated with the theme of this post .
    Are You Able to Control Your Emotions?- The test finds out how well you control your emotions
    http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/selfreg/selfreg_instructions.asp

    Reply
    • Hi Kim, Thanks for the link. We need to learn how to keep taking baby steps to keep moving forward. Each step helps us shake off that fear, so we can keep growing and learning.

      Reply
      • Yup true!

        Reply
  5. I think small actions is very important. Often looking at the end goal is a little daunting, but small actions on a rugular basis send us flying towards that goalm in no time at all!

    Reply
    • Hi Kate, It’s like looking up at a mountain of work and feeling there is no way we can accomplish that. We need to take small bites every day until we get our momentum moving.

      Reply
  6. I find listening to self-talk very useful in overcoming fear. Another technique that I use when fear starts taking over is to just do the thing that I am fearful about. For example, if I have to do something fearful like giving a speech in my case, then I just go to the poduim and give the speech. I don’t let the fearful thoughts take over my mind. And at the end I feel a lot relaxed.

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin, Good point. We have to face our fears or they just keep getting stronger. Once we do we usually realize that it didn’t kill us and it makes the next go around a little easier.

      Reply
  7. Hi Karl .. fear can be overcome .. by starting – if we don’t start to move forward – then we’re stuck .. held in that vice-grip of fear .. horrible gnawing fear and not moving on.

    This post is a great read .. and essential for someone who’s struggling with serious fear … I do talk to myself .. and accept that I should be doing things & therefore have to get on with it – then it goes .. and life is so much easier .. also I achieve way more than I think I can do …

    Thanks – Hilary

    Reply
  8. Hi Hilary, You should be proud that you talk to yourself. It means you are in touch with your thoughts. This can be turned into a superpower that helps you improve the lives of the people in your life. The more in touch you are with these thoughts the easier it becomes to teach other people to overcome their fears.

    Reply
  9. taking actions is the best thing to break fears also i like that fear is a way to protect yourself, you shouldn’t be in your comfort zone all the way, to have results you never saw you should get out of your comfort zone and that is the way to creativity

    Reply

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