The 2 Biggest Barriers to Moving Forward in Your Creative Career

Earlier this week I spoke with a couple of creatives at different times about their next career steps and what seemed to be stalling them at the moment. In both cases the same 2 themes emerged. I have faced the same 2 barriers at different times and have talked to many other creatives who have faced them as well. They are; comparison and fear.

COMPARISONANDFEAR

COMPARISON

Comparison kills contentment. We are usually fairly content in our work (especially if we’re working in our sweet spot) until we see someone more talented. Contentment wanes when we compare ourselves with others. Part of the reason is that we compare our sketches with other artists polished portfolios. We tend to compare our weaknesses against other’s strengths. There’s also the cold hard truth that there is always someone else more talented that we are (unless you are the undisputed world champ). I wrote about this at length in a recent post so I won’t go too into detail here, but here are a few suggestions for dealing with comparison.

• focus on the journey
• read biographies of great people and you’ll see that it was a process for them too
• even insanely talented artists struggle with comparisons and have bouts of doubt and feelings of inadequacy
• comparison kills contentment which kills creativity
• focus on the sheer joy of creating
• remember the joy of uninhibited creativity when you were a kid
• every victory requires a battle and if everything came easy we wouldn’t appreciate or enjoy it
• comparison kills collaboration
• comparison is often linked to pride
• humility helps you grow without resentment or feeling defeated

FEAR

Leadership expert Andy Stanley has talked about a mentor he had as a young leader. This mentor used to challenge Andy whenever he faced a scary proposition or something that caused fear and kept him from moving forward. His mentor referred to fear as a 500 pound gorilla. He would tell him to “open the cage and invite the gorilla out”. I absolutely love this analogy for facing your fears.

Last year I went thru an intense study to nail down my identity and calling. One of the weeks focused on fear. After being completely honest with myself about what fears I had that were potentially blocking me from moving forward, there was an exercise designed to face those fears. I had to list each fear and play out it’s worst possible outcome. It was a Biblically based study so it then challenged me to ask if these outcomes were bigger than God’s purposes. Could God work even in the worst outcome? Yes…if He’s God. Aside from the faith based aspect of the exercise, it also helped me decide if I was ready to face the potential risk. In short, it helped me overcome any blocking fears I had that may have been consciously or unconsciously keeping me from my calling.

Here are a few suggestions to dealing with fear.

• face it head on and invite the gorilla out of the cage
• courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is decisive action in spite of fear
• fear is the opposite of faith; the more you trust, the less you fear
• most of what we fear, never happens and we needlessly waste energy
• anything worth doing is scary
• how we deal with fear separates the spectators from the players
• waiting until you are ready will never happen
• fear is less scary in the rear view mirror
• facing fear forces us to grow
• you can’t have a real victory without a real battle

One last thought. Comparison and fear often work in tandem. They feed each other and starve your soul. Punch them both in the throat and make a courageous decision today. You’ll be glad you did.

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