If you had no fear, what would you do? Would you start the novel that’s been a half-scribbled idea in your journal for years? Would you take singing lessons? Would you start training for a marathon? In Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas by Peter Himmelman, the author tackles these questions and more.
Many of us have dreams that we’re afraid to say out loud or even admit to ourselves. Why? Because of our fear of failure, and the related fears of embarrassment and shame. These stifle our dreams and stall them as fantasy instead of transforming them into reality.
But what if you could do something about it? Every creative has had to face these fears, and they exist only in the mind. The artists and achievers we see celebrated in the media are not necessarily more talented than us, but they were brave enough to confront their fears and learn to quiet them.
The first step to realizing your dreams is to overcome fear. It’s normal to fear failure. Worry inevitably becomes the biggest obstacle when we really want to succeed. We start talking ourselves down. Maybe we tell ourselves that we aren’t talented enough or that someone has beaten us to the punch, or that we’re not qualified.
Repeating negative thoughts gets us nowhere. It leads to procrastination at best and self-sabotage at worst. Especially when that pessimism starts piling up. Such negative thinking is almost always rooted in past experience.
Equally, if you don’t take that first step, negativity and fear can escalate. But the moment you get the ball rolling, even if it’s just the smallest nudge, things won’t seem so insurmountable. A good way to unblock negative beliefs is by using a Brain Bottle Opener (BBO for short). These are simple time-limited creative exercises designed to unlock ideas.
A BBO works something like this. In a 15-minute slot, you could scribble down possible options for your new venture’s name. In ten minutes you could doodle some logo ideas. In a couple of minutes, you could buy a domain name. By working to a fixed time and on a defined task, you can quickly snap out of sluggish and negative mind-sets. Every concrete action takes you that little bit closer to realizing your goal.
It’s easy for people who know no better to ask, “Why don’t you just get started and do it?” But the truth is, getting going can be pretty hard work. Just why is that? That little inner voice that fills our heads with doubt certainly plays a part. The author has a name for it: Marv, short for “Majorly Afraid of Revealing Vulnerability.”
Marv tells you that taking risks can lead just as much to failure as to success. It’s a very primal defense mechanism: Marv likes to keep you out of harm’s way if at all possible. However, if you want to achieve anything, taking risks is part and parcel of the whole process. Therefore, it’s critical to subdue Marv’s bleating. Use three steps to make your dreams achievable.
First, make them specific. Break them down into smaller pieces. Want to run an animal shelter? Start by volunteering. Second, make your goals present. Take action in the here and now. There’s no point postponing. Third, make them true. The dream has to be yours and yours alone. You have to find motivation from within. To mitigate Marv, revisit these three principles as often as possible. If you take things step by step, you will conquer that inner critic.
Another good way to moderate Marv is to examine your behavior and think about what’s held you back in the past. We all have our metaphorical elephant ropes. Think about it. Many tame elephants are kept shackled from a young age. Fully grown, they are strong enough to escape but don’t because as babies they learned it was impossible.
Here’s another BBO: Spend five minutes describing your own personal elephant rope, big or small. Maybe your family told you that you couldn’t sing, so you stopped singing around people from a young age, even though you loved it. Repeat this five-minute task and understand what’s holding you back.
It’s a wonderful thing when you find your sense of purpose and live by it. So why is it so tricky to put that inner critic to rest?
Well, Marv’s job is made easier by playing on feelings of abandonment. So it’s critical to understand them if you want to confront him. He thinks he’s a self-protection mechanism, but he’s really not. We have to step back and work out the source of those fears of abandonment. As children, we were fully dependent on our parents. If we’d been abandoned, we’d have died. As adults, we don’t need that level of protection.
Confront the overprotective Marv by writing him a personal letter. Take three minutes to explain to Marv that he should ease off. You understand his motives, but you’re not actually in danger. You’re moving on with life. Tell him to save his energy for when you’re really in a fix.
Another way to ensure future endeavors succeed is to strengthen relationships. In fact, it’s been shown that long-term relationships are far more rewarding than winning the lottery or becoming famous.
Consequently, be generous and kind. Let others know how much they mean to you. Why not start today? Send a message to somebody you admire – a partner, parent, teacher or mentor. Write from the heart. Overcome your inhibitions and try to be genuine and complementary. There’s no need to revise. Just send.
These exercises will increase confidence and trust. They’ll help you feel more connected. They’ll mean you make better choices as you won’t be held back by negative emotions. Once you’ve got going, you’ll be better equipped to face down residual fears. But doubts can still bubble up and slow you down. The trick is to embrace creative methods that keep you pushing forward.
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