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Thinking Man

You’ve heard about writer’s block and maybe you have heard about creativity block. These are terms that are often thrown around when someone is unable to continue to work. Whether you are writing or creating something, even if you’re not an artist, you will experience mental blocks too that prevent you from finishing what you started.

Think about a time when you thought that you had everything down to a T and you had everything you needed right in front of you (including time, energy, and attention). Despite having everything, you could not make yourself start or finish. That’s a mental block.

Mental blocks stop you from being productive. It can happen once in a blue moon or it can happen daily. This will lead to you failing and feeling desperate because you are stuck. Mental blocks can be very draining especially when you don’t know what is happening to you and you don’t know how to get out of it.

When people talk about productivity it’s often focused on systems, tools, workflows, apps, habits. Not a lot of attention is paid to mental factors such as mental blocks.

What Is A Mental Block?

What is a mental block? The simplest definition out there is “an inability to recall some specific thing or perform some mental action”.

In truth, there are at least seven (common) types of mental blocks:

1. Self-doubt
This is often linked to a lack of self-confidence but it’s more than just confidence or the lack thereof. This happens even to the most skilled person feeling that they are unqualified. Your boss or mentor can tell you that you are the best in your field but your mind will find arguments that will make you think that it’s not true.

2. Indecision
You put in too much value in each decision you have to make. You over-research and you can’t trust yourself to identify what is important. You end up not being able to focus.

3. Fixed mindset
You’re stuck in the past and it stops you from growing. For example, a year ago you applied for a promotion but didn’t get it and because of that, you no longer wish to be promoted because you’re stuck thinking that you will not get it.

4. Comparison
The success of the people around you is a threat to you. You think that because they became successful first, you can not be successful anymore. You feel threatened by them so that you end up focusing on other people instead of yourself.

5. Uncertainty
Don’t confuse this with indecision. In uncertainty, you already made a decision but you are unable to execute it.

6. No limits
Saying yes to everything including ideas or projects that you want for yourself. You have too much stuff going on at the same time that you are unable to finish anything.

7. Tunnel vision
You don’t consider alternatives and you are stuck with how you do things. You don’t go beyond what you know and thus you lose objectivity.

These are the seven types of mental blocks. Did any of the above resonate with you? You can have one, two, or all. If you are confused but you know you have it, there’s an easy way to find out which mental block or blocks you may have.

You need to listen to yourself and observe what you do and do not do. For example, when you start to slack off or mindlessly staring into space, listen to your internal monologue.

What are you telling yourself?

Based on what you are communicating with yourself, you will soon find out what mental blocks you have. If it helps to write them down.

Now that you know what your mental blocks are, it’s time to overcome them.

How to Overcome Mental Blocks

We have 4 strategies that you can use right now to overcome mental blocks.

1. Uncover the causes of the mental block
“Why do I think this way?” is a question you can ask yourself. Asking yourself why once might not be enough so ask yourself why until you uncover the cause. You might uncover that the causes happened when you were still a child, it’s not impossible.

2. Remove the blocks
Now that you are aware of what your mental blocks are and why you have it, you can work on removing these blocks. One way you can do this is to listen to your internal monologue. When you start telling yourself that you can’t do it (self-doubt), tell yourself “that’s not true”. When you start creating scenarios in your head, tell yourself “it’s going to be okay”. These internal monologues can help you remove mental blocks from taking the best out of you.

3. Reduce the power of the mental blocks
Most mental blocks come from fear. What you can do when this fear starts to swell is to think about what the outcome would be. Going back to the self-doubt example, let’s say you don’t want to speak up during the meeting because you are afraid that your boss will not listen to your idea. So? What’s the worst that could happen if your boss will not listen to your idea? Will you get fired? No, you won’t. By doing that, you reduce the power of the mental block because now you are faced with the reality that the fears you are envisioning are not going to happen.

4. Transform the mental blocks
You can convert or transform a mental block so that it works for you. You can transform the negative energy into a positive one. I go through the self-doubt mental block and I transformed this into making myself review my work better. I don’t let it hold me back anymore.

Next Steps
It’s time to listen to yourself and find out what your mental blocks are. Once you know what your mental blocks are, go through at least one of the strategies mentioned above.


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Last Updated: September 22, 2020

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