Sometimes it happens that we are dissatisfied with a specific area in our life; we realize that we are not living up to our full potential; we acknowledge that the life we are living is not what we are meant to live; we recognize that we are not doing what we are really capable of; and so on… But still we don’t seem to move forward, we are stuck at the same place for weeks, months and even years. So, what actually holds us back? We often misinterpret it as laziness, demotivation, time or resources limitation, or absence of knowledge or skills. But it has nothing to do with all these, it’s something related to mental capacity and termed as ‘mental block’.
Mental blocks are psychological barriers or self-limiting beliefs that do not allow you to access your creativity or productivity and in turn result in a lack of drive. You are not able to concentrate, think or reason clearly; these are invisible barriers influencing your productivity. They are part of your subconscious conditioning that negatively influences everything you think, feel or do.
We often consider that people whose work highly depends upon creativity, suffer a mental block; this is why this is sometimes termed as ‘writer’s block’. In fact, anyone may suffer a mental block because today creative thinking skills are the requirement of almost every profession.
Like any system may have a troubleshoot issue or there is a short circuit or when device efficiency diminishes, it requires a restart, so does our brain; when our brain is tired, we suffer a mental block and need to restart it. This is why ‘Mental fatigue’ or ‘brain fog’ are the terms used alternatively for mental block.
Reasons behind mental blocks:
- When you have a lot of things to do; your to do list is very long, you become overwhelmed, your brain shuts down and you are unable to access your creativity. This is one reason you suffer a mental block.
- If you have imposter syndrome, it may also cause a mental block. People struggling with imposter syndrome doubt their abilities, talents, skills and accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being replaced. They even question themselves, whether they are deserving of accolades they have received so far. So, when someone persistently doubts his own talents, he or she is not able to access creativity and suffers a mental block.
- Another possible reason behind mental blocks may be fear of failure. When you are trapped by your thought processes, you may be anxious about the outcomes of the given project. Then you feel so overwhelmed that you are not able to do the work required to complete it. You are not able to focus properly to undertake it. And you can’t see this project to the end.
- Decision fatigue may also be the reason you are suffering from a mental block. When you have to make many important decisions everyday, you become stressed and your ability to think suffers greatly. Not only making important decisions makes you tired, a large number of day to day decisions also deplete your energy levels. When you have fewer things to choose from, you may consume that energy elsewhere and you don’t have a decision fatigue anymore and in turn don’t face a mental block
- It may be caused by some unhealthy choices like not getting enough sleep, not taking healthy food, not focusing on nutrient rich food, taking medications or involved in substance use
- Your procrastination habit may also take you towards suffering mental blocks. Because when the due date is around the corner and you have not completed the assigned task, you face excessive stress that leads to a mental block.
Adverse effects of mental blocks:
Kill your creativity: Negatively affects creativity: When you are stressed and lose focus, you suffer a mental block. Stress easily hijacks and controls our brain. It can make us do things that we might regret in the future; it overtakes our entire brain and kills our sense of creativity. It’s not that we are not creative anymore; while suffering a mental block, we have good and creative ideas but we fail to implement them.
You miss deadlines: While suffering mental blocks at work, you find it challenging to complete a task or follow a project till the end. You think deeply about the problems and are unable to focus to make the progress. You are anxious about the project outcome and can’t think about what to do next, or not confident in your ability to deliver. This leads to missed deadlines and that even worsens the situation more for you
You deliver mediocre performance: While suffering from mental blocks, you feel demotivated; you lack the drive to do your best. Obviously, undertaking a task while you are demotivated results in mediocre performance.
You Lose opportunities: Mental blocks let you be fearful of failures, as a result you don’t take risks, and when you don’t take risks, you don’t bother to avail new opportunities.
Common mental blocks and how to recognize yours:
- Having self-disbelief: Self-disbelief makes you feel incompetent; you feel whatever you have done is less valuable; you think that you are not good enough. This self-disbelief may develop from your life experiences or from the others negative energy towards you. Whatever the reason behind your self-disbelief is, your subconscious mind saved it and now it reminds you again and again that you are not good enough
- Feeling worthless: When you feel worthless, you say to yourself: “I don’t deserve it”. Again life experiences make you feel this way; and behind all this is your mental programming that does not allow you to enjoy life and live happily.
- Strictly following the society: When you do exactly what meets the expectation of society instead of chasing your own dreams, then how can you be happy, fulfilled and successful?
- Blaming the lack of resources: This is the mental block that will never let you come out of your comfort zone. What can be easier than blaming the people and things around for your failures and never taking the responsibility for your actions. And this adversely affects your ability to think and do.
- Having a fixed mindset: Having a fixed mindset means believing that your future performance will also be the same as your past performance; what you had been able to do in the past applies a limit on what you would be able to do in the future. So, you start believing that your capabilities have certain limitations that cannot be overcomed. No doubt, this is the fact but this attitude does not allow you to learn or grow and as a result you don’t perform up to your full potential.
- Restrictions block: Not chasing your life goals just because of feeling yourself restricted by your age, gender, ethnic group also limits your ability to think and influences your creativity adversely. You keep on making lame excuses on the basis of these restrictions.
To recognize your mental block, follow these steps:
- Select a task that may contribute to your current goal
- Work on this task for next 15-20 minutes
- Whenever you feel stuck, stop for a while, relax and listen to your thoughts. What you will hear at that moment will be the voice of the mental block. It may be in the form of words or phrases repeating in your head or in the form of your feelings and experiences at that moment.
Mental blocks destroy your creative thinking skills and your productivity diminishes. Think differently and start recognizing your mental blocks because you can’t overcome mental blocks until you recognize them.
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