Mental muscle–and how certain you feel in your thoughts and decisions–is an important part of all aspects of life, from fitness to career to how you interact with friends, family, and even strangers.
Sometimes our mental muscles can’t get stronger until we drop the weights. Go figure. Let things go. We have to stop holding on so tightly, step back, and take a rest from the things we’re hauling around, lifting over and over again, simply because we don’t know how to set them down.
Build Mental Muscle: Let Go or Lighten Up
One of my goals for this year is to let go of a lot of the work I’ve been doing for clients so I can make more time and space for my own projects. I love what I do and I love my clients, but nothing compares to having full control of a creative project from start to finish. I’ve been saying I was going to do that for years now, but I always came up with some excuse to keep going.
Each excuse really boiled down to fear.
Fear that I wouldn’t be able to make up the income. Fear that if I let go of some clients I’d never find clients as reliable and good as the ones I have now.
Fear that if I didn’t have a solid income or my foot still in the door at some places and in some areas, I’d end up hungry and homeless because I would no longer have the leverage I’d need to push harder and create more content for these clients in the event that I needed to make a lot more money than I do now.
Mental muscle negates some of the fear because you learn to trust yourself.
Keep in mind, I’m not “quitting” my job, but redirecting my attention and energy in a way that’s less of a sure thing in the short-term. There’s much more potential for success, control, security, variety, and residual income in the long-term than there was in the type of work I was doing.
I’m terrified, but feel so free and grounded at the same time. Ideas are rushing at me constantly. I wish I could still pull all-nighters and have something to show for it the next day because I can barely keep up with myself!
Sometimes the Decision Is Made for You
Circumstances made it easier for me to let go of some of the work, I’ll admit. I may not have taken the plunge this year either without that little nudge. One client closed six blogs at once. I wrote for three of them.
A few days later, I made the choice not to rush into the work on the two blogs still standing, hoard all the titles I could like a squirrel with nuts in the fall, and power through them even though I wasn’t a good fit for a lot of the topics and those topics weren’t things I was passionate about. It was scary, but I learned something.
Days after I made my decision and adjusted my goals and daily tasks to reflect the changes, I started getting little signs to show me that I’d done the right thing. One company contacted me and asked to use one of my photos (one I took, not one of my face; I don’t think anybody really wants that!). Another contacted me with an opportunity that sounds so much more in line with what I’m focusing on now. These companies just found me; I didn’t reach out to anyone, submit any resumes, or anything.
You have to stop relying on safety nets and safe bets, clinging to things that don’t serve you or light you up inside, just because you’re afraid of the unknown. Once you do, the things you were mean to do and be and have will come rushing in to fill the gap. Take control and make some space.
I’m not suggesting that you quit your job and wait for a better one to fall into your lap, though. 😉 Just don’t be afraid to actively look for other options, plan ahead, stay open to new opportunities and experiences, look for new skills to learn, determine where you want your life to go and take the steps necessary to get there (don’t hurt anyone else in the process!).
Building Mental Muscle Is Uncomfortable
Don’t hold on to things that drag you down. Realize that there may be times when you’re uncomfortable because you’re hanging in limbo and don’t know what to do without that heavy weight you were dragging around for so long. Trust that you’ll have answers soon and stay open to them. People can find comfort in the things they resent because the unknown can seem terrifying compared to their current, unfulfilling life. Awful, right?
Use your tough times to build mental muscle. Think of it in gym terms. Time spent at the squat rack doing three sets of 10 with 100 lbs (or more, or less) on your shoulders will make you physically stronger. If you tried to stand there forever with that bar across your back, you’d make no progress and you’d eventually collapse under the pressure. Pushing through a few sets and then allowing time for recovery (whether it’s a new job, a new creative outlet, unplugging for a few hours, or moving to a totally new and unfamiliar place) will be where the growth comes in. Put the weight down when you can, after the mandatory set is over. Let your muscles rest. Come back stronger, refreshed, renewed. Repeat as necessary.
Clear out the unnecessary stress and mental clutter and just watch what rushes in. What have you let go of in the past, despite fear, and what replaced it? What would you like to let go of, and what’s stopping you?