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Tap into your creative zoneYou want to do a Great Thing, but something keeps you from doing it. What is stopping you from doing your Great Thing?

In your search to determine what is wrong with you, you compare yourself to other people. If you could just identify the obstacle in your way, surely your great thing will just fall into place.
Stop this. Stop looking for what is wrong with you. You have everything you need to accomplish your goal. But only by doing will you find that it will happen.

This is what I know from being a psychologist and from watching people, even very talented people face doing the work to put themselves out in the world through their websites: Most of us face a common impediment in achieving our goals, our Great Things, and it’s overcoming the day to day blah, blah, blah. We spend our days on the treadmill of the ordinary, being busy with our obligations, doing what is easy or doing what we think we can’t delegate. We get mired down in the mundane. In this space, our mind state is so familiar that we are on autopilot, which gives us plenty of brainpower to fill our heads with self-criticism and monkey talk.

Although we are busy on the outside, so is the voice in our heads. What we are doing leaves a whole channel open that we fill with self-talk.  Often, people are in the habit of hearing the negative voice wondering what other people are thinking, comparing themselves to others, worrying they are not good enough or fill in the blank.

If this sounds familiar, don’t beat yourself up about that too. In fact, most of us engage in this negativity to some extent or another, so if you feel these things from time to time, you are not especially screwed up. But if you stay in that place of perceived safety, you are not going to get to your goals and that is a shame.

To get to extraordinary, to accomplish big goals and to step into your greatness, you have to get out of the mundane and elevate your mind state—and you must find ways to do it regularly. It is surprisingly easy, but it takes discipline. You have to actually schedule time for activities that put you in the creative zone.

Where Your Head Needs to Be

This is not some Judi-made-this-up thing. It turns out creativity is a neurological process and doing Great Things take a great deal of consistent creative time.

When we are mired in day-to-day routine behaviors, our brain is lighting up the lateral prefrontal cortex. This brain state allows plenty of self-monitoring, self-consciousness, and self-talk.

Luckily, we don’t have to be stuck there. There is another brain space that we tap when we are in a creative zone—where we are totally involved in what we are doing, so fully self-expressed and in the flow that monkey chatter is suffocated. When we are fortunate enough to get into this space, our medial prefrontal cortex is lighting up. In this mental state, there’s no room for negativity and self-consciousness. Our brains are too busy with our Great Thing.

So what about getting to that place? How do we trigger a weird dissociation in our brains that turns off the self-monitoring and lets the self-expressive part of the brain amp up?

This requires conscious decisions. We must make the time to step away from the day-to-day multi-tasking, getting the job done tasks.  You must get out of our head and take action.

What Works for You?

You likely are reaching that flow state now in some parts of your life, so pay attention to where, when and how you are getting there. Once you know what to do, you can do what you know.

Here are some of the times and places where I am most creative. I get into the zone is when I am working on logos or the creative part of website design. I get into this creative zone through a set habit: I am alone, at my desk in my office with Pandora set to a Bon Iver playlist and my dogs nearby.

Another habit: When I come up with blog post ideas and things to write, I am often walking through the neighborhood or out on the Atlanta Beltline. I may be walking alone or with a friend, or meeting with someone for coffee where we are deeply involved talking about concepts and work ideas.

I get into the creative zone when I am planning gardens, doing room designs or planning parties or events. To get into the zone for these activities, I make the time to pore over books, magazines, reading and looking at images, colors, shapes, fonts. This habit helps trigger magic. All of this input gets integrated through my creative brain and then I am able to synthesize it into something uniquely my own. Thanks medial frontal cortex!

Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

Here’s what I’ve noticed that doesn’t work for my creative process. if I am stressed, worried, angry, tired, overwhelmed, or not feeling well, I find it very hard to summon the discipline needed to make the time, to set the time apart and dive into the things I need to do to drive my business forward. Those states make me want to numb out, watch TV, mindlessly scroll through Facebook, have a drink and basically close down.

What are the steps you take to manage and counteract those negative states? For me they are:

Enough sleep
Regular exercise
Getting outside and walking
Eating right
Minimal alcohol
Minimal TV
Asking for help
Delegating
Keeping my surroundings clean and organized
Spending time with people that are smart and successful
Not overcommitting
Scheduling time off

And finally, the big one is….
creating a discipline to spend the time on your Great Thing.

You have to actually do the work. You have to sit in the chair and write, or paint, or draw or plan to make it happen, whatever the Great Thing is.

To write a book you have to write. To be a dancer you have to dance. To be a musician you have to play music. Sometimes it is great and you can’t wait to get in the studio. But other times, we get bogged down in the day-to-day, listen to the negative thinking and find a million reasons why we don’t feel like it today.

Today, just do it. When today becomes tomorrow, do it again. As you tap into the best part of your creative self, you’re outsmarting the mundane. Congratulate yourself because your Great Thing is happening, and it’s happening now.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Marilyn Heywood Paige
    Reply

    Judi,

    I enjoy your blog and the topics you write about.

    Another great tip I learned from a friend on this issue is to limit the number of decisions you have to make in a day so that your brain space is freed up for more creative endeavors. Don’t bog yourself down in mundane decisions. Delegate as many decisions as you can to others. Empower them and conserve your brain energy for the decisions that only you can make.

  • Teresa
    Reply

    Until recently I didn’t realize how counterproductive that “monkey brain” chatter is. I thought it helped me stay on top of all the details, but I was clueless about why I had accomplished so few of my Great Things. I heard about Shirzad Chamine’s work around the concepts you describe, and bought his book on the topic.

    It’s still a daily struggle, but I love that he – and you – are making people aware of this dreadful overworked/underperforming state of mind. So glad you still regularly put on your “shrink” hat 😉

    • Judi Knight
      Reply

      Thanks Teresa! It is a form of mind control. I also like Eckhart Tolle’s concept of the pain-body, and the notion that we can choose to feed it or not.

      But I do love when I can get into that space where there is n judgement or self talk when time stops and I am in the zone. It just is not a good thing to do after 11 at night or I can find myself still there at 3AM!

  • M. Johnson
    Reply

    Thanks for taking time to share your insightful tips each week. This message is particularly helpful. I’ve been trying to take at least 15 to 30 minutes each day to work — uninterrupted — on a long-range project.

    It has made a difference, and I feel energized by the progress made in a short amount of time.

    Steps that help:
    – Logging out of social media channels to remove temptation
    – Working with very few tabs/windows open on my browser (again, less temptation to surf the web)
    – Placing my phone on silent and setting the timer.

    Happy New Year!

    • Judi Knight
      Reply

      Those are all great tips for making progress. Discipline is the hardest one to tackle and creating a routine to support you is the best way to make it happen.

      Happy new year to you as well!

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