Being blocked in our ability to produce ideas and innovate can feel like being sucked into a narrow tunnel, a dark passage, a deep cave – where we can remain trapped for what seems like an eternity.
How can we snap out of our unfortunate trance? What are some of the psychological and emotional obstacles blocking our state of creativity, our flow of ideas?
Here are six mental blocks creators and innovators need to recognise and overcome their mesmerising spell:
1 Coveting the status quo
We don’t want to disturb the existing order, the way we have always done things. Trapped in the bliss of our comfort zones, the dull grey hue of existence becomes a pale but safe substitute for the risk of being energised and feeling alive.
2 Fear of not being good enough
Low levels of self-esteem become a self fulfilling prophecy. “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage,” says Anaïs Nin. What will it take for us to believe that we are equipped for life’s challenges? Yet another degree, another course, another pile of books? We need to discipline the inner critic before and during our idea generation. Silencing it altogether is unwise as we need it later when we evaluate our ideas and prepare to introduce them to our customers and communities.
3 Analysis by paralysis
We become obsessed by the detail, believing that if we plan out things thoroughly and painstakingly we will have enough bases covered to succeed. But where’s the action? Analysis can be a violent intellectual act, the opposite of synthesising, creating something new. Isn’t the Ready, fire, aim approach more effective than Ready, aim, aim, aim, splutter?
4 Fear of change
Change can be filled with discomfort and uncertainty. Pain avoidance protects from harm. We miss the dynamic of embracing the new and experiencing personal growth. Mastering the art of handling the scary onslaught of change is not easy but what price do we pay for avoidance?
5 Ego needs (embarrassment)
We may not believe that we can make a difference; that our ideas, our thoughts, our presence possess value. What we cast out to the world will come back to smack us in the face. Who do we think we are? Our ideas will be ridiculed. You’ll only make a fool of yourself, we hear our family members say, threatened by our temerity to venture outside of the norm.
6 Secure identity
Holding safe our identity we stay trapped in untenable situations, positions and roles maintaining an image of ourselves that we may erroneously believe others respect us for. Being aware of how our identity stands in the way of seeing ourselves differently allows us an opportunity to redefine ourselves.
Remaining stuck because of any of these mental blocks can be a serious impediment to our growth and well-being — and our ability to create and innovate. It takes self-awareness to recognise the mental and emotional traps that hold us back from becoming what we yearn to be. Sometimes our lives require risk — putting ourselves on the line. As a creator in advertising, art, architecture, choreography, design, literature, music or any other human enterprise, we would do well to consider the words of Ray Bradbury, “Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down”.