Creative Avoidance. . .

I firmly believe that everyone can be creative. If nowhere else, you can easily witness creative behavior in every single person when the time comes to make up a good excuse for not taking action or to face irrational fears. With no exception, we can all get so creative when it’s time to prevent ourselves from getting out of the comfort zone. There’s even an expression for such behavior. It’s called creative avoidance. You basically find every possible way to stop yourself from taking action. The subconscious goal of creative avoidance is to protect yourself from danger. But ironically, many times you are not protecting yourself, but rather stopping yourself from progress, growth and new wins.

Creative avoidance can be the tough goalkeeper preventing you from entering a bigger league. It doesn’t make sense to invest your creative potential at avoiding your progress.

If you put yourself out there, you will get rejected from time to time, you will occasionally say the wrong things and you will meet failure sooner or later. You might not get any likes, you will hear no, and on rare occasions you will make a fool out of yourself. But if you persist, you will also hear yes, you will deliver your best performance, reach things you were only dreaming about and, most importantly, you will show to the world all the potential and creative gifts that you possess. It’s not rejection, it’s just redirection. It’s not failure, it’s just one way how things don’t work with hidden hints for how they could work.

You are not entitled to anything. It’s your job to beat your irrational fears. And irrational fears are the worst. They are the real enemy. So get up and get out into the real world. Train yourself to avoid creative avoidance. But don’t do anything stupid: instead practice mild exposure and keep yourself in the learning zone with the growth mindset. In the jungle, the mighty jungle, avoiding danger was the ultimate survival goal. The better you were at avoiding beasts, predators and other killers, the greater were your chances of survival. If you managed to avoid danger, there was no need for an unnecessary fight or flight that might also end in death. The feeling that drives avoidant behavior is fear. Fear tells you that something is dangerous and tries to convince you to avoid it. In many dangerous situations, fear is the greatest gift one can possess. It’s the survival instinct (and intuition) that helps you stay alive and in one piece. Thus, you shouldn’t see fear as something bad. Fear is your ally, an alarm notifying you as soon as possible that it’s time to avoid danger and protect yourself.

But we don’t live in the jungle anymore, where avoiding things was necessary on a daily basis. In the developed world and fairly safe urban places, situations where you need to be really afraid are quite rare. In fact many of us have taken our natural creativity and used it to avoid things and situations that may actually have valuable lessons for us. That’s why we get extremely creative when it comes to avoiding emotional pain. We can think of many different excuses when we get an opportunity to expose ourselves and open ourselves to potential rejection, humiliation or failure. The problem with creative avoidance is that it drives you to doing only low value-added activities. And that lowers your personal value and perspectives.

The greatest advantage you can have in life is to quickly make smart decisions when you encounter new challenging situations. New situations are also the ones that wake up the fear in you.

So, every time you sense the smallest sign of fear in your body, quickly run a short algorithm in your head that will help you make a smart decision – ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Am I in real danger of injury, harm, physical pain or death? Don’t do it.
  2. Is it a stupid decision – is there a big risk involved and a small reward? Do you risk integrity, jail time, license termination etc.? Don’t do it.
  3. Is it something that you know is an irrational fear, and you plan to face it one day, but it’s currently completely beyond your focus? Don’t do it (you don’t want too many challenges at the same time). But the rule is that you must be already tackling one of your fears.
  4. Is the challenge that’s connected to your irrational fear that is holding you back way out of your comfort zone? Don’t do it.
  5. Is it an irrational fear holding you back from undertaking a challenge that’s just a little bit above your competence level? DO IT!

When it comes to irrational fears, make fear your compass, showing you where you need to grow. When it comes to irrational fears, your mantra should be I will do it, because I fear itRemember that it’s impossible to live out your full potential if you hide in a box. Don’t run away from hard things. See the hard things as the greatest gift that can accelerate your learning and growth. It’s that simple.

Peace and Love, Jim

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