I still get hit hard with this sometimes…
Yesterday, I had a down day. My productivity was way low compared to the high standard I set for myself.
It took me a while to actually realize what was going on. But in my weekly check-up with my coach, Joseph, we got to the core of the issue.
I’d gotten some client feedback on a first draft of copy.
It wasn’t even bad feedback. The first words in the feedback were “Great start,” and it included the word “POWERFUL” — in all caps.
But I still felt the pain in the part of my ego that’s needy, insecure, and always wants to be right the first time around.
There was enough negative mixed in with the positive, and enough revisions recommended (including some things I should have recognized before submitting) that I just kind of shut down.
Other unrelated projects suffered. My mile-a-minute, idea-factory mind wasn’t churning things out like it usually does.
And for a long time, I couldn’t quite figure out why. But then this morning, we figured it out.
I had an emotional blockage. It was related to the feedback on the copy. And I had to get through it if I wanted to get back to work…
Now, I’m not quite sure how this next part happened…
Joseph said something to me that got me thinking about the Serenity Prayer…
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.
And I realized that the answer to my emotional blockage was in there.
Not just in saying the prayer itself — though I recognize for some people, the comfort you can get from that might help.
Rather, I realized that in the Serenity Prayer was a tool that you can use to overcome challenges, problems, and obstacles that are creating an emotional blockage in your life.
And in a flash of inspiration, I visualized a series of questions — based on the Serenity Prayer — that you can actually use to move through emotional blockages with productive action.
You see, this emotional blockage, for me, was the internal response to an external stimulus.
The internal reaction was a wave of Resistance (read The War of Art) that was stopping me from working. The external stimulus was this feedback on my copy.
I got negative feedback. I suddenly felt a huge wave of resistance, preventing my creative mind from full function.
I think most emotional blockages are internal responses to external stimuli. In fact, I think ALL emotional blockages are internal responses to something external. Either external remembered (from past experience), present (from current environment), or imagined (based on an expected future event).
And assuming that’s true from whatever emotional blockage you’re facing right now, by taking power over how you respond to whatever is going on outside, you can change your internal response as well.
Which brings me to…
The 4 questions you can answer to break through emotional blockages…
- What’s standing in the way of my progress today?
If you want this to be effective, you have to be real and honest with yourself.
In my case, it’s not easy to admit I’ve got a fragile ego around my creative work product. But in service of the higher goal of generating maximum response, and out of respect for my client whose money is on the line with the copy, I have to get real about it.
But I’m not so much focused on the internal feeling here — and you shouldn’t be, either.
Rather, when you take a deep breath, look inside, and ask yourself where that feeling is coming from, what’s the first answer that springs to mind?
It will be something going on in your life. Something outside of you. Something about what’s happened to you, what you expect to have happen to you, or the situation you’re in.
You’re feeling regret about something that happened in the past, or dread for something that might happen in the future.
It’s that something that you want to identify here.
- What can I change about the situation?
Here’s where the Serenity Prayer comes in. Here you’re looking for wisdom to know the difference between what you can change, and what you can’t.
Start with what you can change. I think it’s better to start here, and keep an open mind, considering everything you can change before you start shutting yourself down by listing the things you can’t.
So, what can you do in response to the external something that’s causing you this emotional blockage?
Focus on external actions. Things you can do. Actions you can take.
So, using the copy review as an example, I could argue specific changes that are recommended by my client — and I certainly do that when I have good reason to. I can sit down and start making edits, and see where they take me. I can ask questions to clarify the real issues and changes required, or hop on the phone to discuss the copy and generate ideas. I could go on.
You want to list all the things you have control over, that you can do to change. Some of them might be horrible ideas — like, abandon copywriting forever and run for the hills. Others might be easy to implement and help you feel like you’re moving forward.
The idea is to get all your options out of your head and on paper.
- What can’t I change about the situation?
While it’s great to recognize all the things you have power over, it’s also important to realize what you don’t — and what real limits may inhibit you.
And so after you’ve spent significant time listing all the things you can change about the situation, and really letting your creative juices flow there, you need to step back and recognize the limits.
What can’t you change?
You can’t change the past. You can’t take back something that’s already happened. You may not be able to change certain aspects of your situation.
For example, I can’t just take my copy elsewhere to run it, for a variety of reasons. I can’t change the client’s first reaction — but I may be able to discuss where I was coming from, and open their mind about testing some of my choices in the market. (See, I’m already problem solving here, because I thought about what I could change first!)
Be careful here to only include REAL limits. Things you truly cannot change. Most people put their self-imposed limits well below their real limits. You will be best-served here by recognizing that if you truly want to, you can change A LOT. Yes, there will be trade-offs, but if you’re willing to live with the results, you can change almost anything in your life.
- In light of this, what steps will I take to move forward?
Once you’ve defined the problem and spent some time identifying what you can change and what you can’t, it’s time to turn it into action.
Look at what you can change. Look at the actions you can take. And make some decisions.
What makes the most sense? What’s the easiest way to bust through your emotional blockage and get on the right track again? What will help you make the most progress toward getting what you want from the situation? What will have the biggest positive payoff, and the least negative consequences?
How does that feel?
If you’ve actually gone through with me and answered these questions for your own emotional blockage, you probably feel better already. You probably gained a ton of clarity. And decided on the specific actions you can take, today, right now, that will move you forward.
Not only that, you’ve given yourself a way to break through the emotional blockage, and move toward the ideal outcome you desire.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,