Starting out in a new career is challenging. I know. Big newsflash. Of course it’s challenging. And I didn’t expect anything else. I expected setbacks and rejections and myriad other difficulties. And I expected that sometimes there would be problems in other areas of life that might impact my work on my new venture. What I couldn’t be sure of is how I would respond to the setbacks. You see, I’ve done the same thing in my working life for so long that I wasn’t having to expose myself to many things beyond my comfort zone, or at least beyond my zone of proximal development (shout out to the Vygotsky fans out there!). Everything I’m doing now is way outside that zone and testing my limits. To be honest, it’s invigorating.
I’ve written here before about moving beyond fear in decision making. But I haven’t really addressed what happens on the other side of this fear. While I’m spending a significant amount of time in my new life swinging between fear and growth, I’m becoming more and more personally aware of where my time is best spent. And it’s not because I think there’s a better way to spend my time – it’s because I can feel the difference. Beyond the fear and beyond my comfort zone is a place of freedom, where my creativity grows. It sounds a bit fluffy really, doesn’t it? But let me explain, and you’ll see that it’s not.
It happens quite regularly that I’ll be sitting here writing a post for this blog and I’ll lose all confidence in what I have to say. My creativity disappears and I can’t write any further. In spite of all the positive feedback I have had about my writing and my willingness to share, once the fear rolls in, it is like a huge cloud threatening to rain down and preventing me from going outside. But it’s when I change my approach that something else changes. When I push on past this fear – of rejection, of not being good enough – I reach the place of creativity. This lack of self-assuredness isn’t a permanent thing, and there’s a surefire way to get past it. Just the same as any other setback or rejection. It’s not as easy as it is effective (at least for me!), but maybe it’ll help you figure out what works for you.
The first part is to try not to fight it. We experience different emotions for a reason – our brains reward or punish us for different life experiences – and pushing them away only results in them return at a later stage, often with greater intensity. So if I have experienced a moment of rejection or failure, I try to just let it be. It’s ok to feel theses things sometimes, it’s just important to not let them take over. So feeling them as they arise, accepting those feelings and not judging them, contributes to a faster and smoother recovery – for me anyway. I’ve certainly read and experienced before that simply naming an emotion, accepting it, and allowing yourself to feel it, significantly reduces the duration and impact of it.
With this first strategy, there’s some risk of getting caught up in the emotion if we aren’t cognisant of the way we are approaching it. It is so important for me not to be judgemental of myself, nor to try to analyse exactly what is going on – some people call the result of this ‘analysis paralysis’. Essentially it means that if you spend all your mental capacity trying to figure out the reasons for your emotions, you’ll never really work through them and move on. For me, the key to this is mindfulness. And it’s not something a single meditation can instil in you. Regular meditation practice will develop your awareness of your thoughts, your compassion for yourself, and your ability to return yourself to the present moment. This part isn’t just a personal opinion. It’s scientific fact. Meditation works, and can help you achieve these things, as long as you commit to regular practice.
Then there’s the final part of my plan to break into my creative space. It’s far less scientific than the previous step, but at times, equally important. Sometimes you just have to do whatever you can to pull yourself past the pain of rejection, failure and a lack of confidence. How? Well, I didn’t say it was easy. But start by doing something kind for yourself – and by kind, I mean healthy. This is what I do. When I’m suffering under these kinds of emotions, very few things work better than a brisk walk, some fresh air, and a little bit of positive escapism. This is probably not the time for a block of chocolate all to yourself or to polish off the last bottle and a half of red wine from your kitchen. I can say from experience of both of these, that they only make things worse! I just try to remind myself that it’s ok to feel, but now it’s time to move forward. It doesn’t matter how small the step is, as long as I’m making one. How long is too long? I find it’s too long when I notice that there’s something in my life that I should have done, but haven’t!
So yes, as expected, I’ve had some setbacks these past few months. But a few people close to me will know that when I set my mind to something, I’m not very good at giving up. I used to be better at it. But that’s not how life is going to be. Because the view is much better standing up than it is lying down. You have to know how to get up quickly when you get knocked down. I like to name it, feel it, call on my inner zen master and defeat it… and it seems to be working out fine!