Last night I was talking with members of the Profit Canvas Vision group, an ongoing support group for those who have taken The Profit Canvas course with bi-monthly live support calls. We were just getting ready to wrap up our call for the night on marketing- I had just spent the previous 45 minutes breaking down a 10-step outreach plan that Jennifer had put together as part of my personal challenge to her to take action in an area she is least comfortable with- direct outreach marketing- and we had covered a lot of incredible ground. In fact, we laid out how Jennifer could begin clarifying her new offer, building her community of ideal clients and business support, strengthen her new stream of revenue and get paid to give talks in different parts of the country about the area she is most knowledgeable in. It was a fantastic call, and we were going to wrap up a bit early in light of the holiday week.
But then I saw a question from Willy, an amazing photographer in the group- in fact, the one who is responsible for the photos I’ve been using for my new blog podcast series- pop into the chat box. “I’m feeling very overwhelmed with all the material and feeling like I have so much work cut out for me because I’m so behind.” She was referring to the fact that she is a member of my beta group for a course called The Artist’s Master Profit Plan, which focuses on how to save, strengthen your streams of revenue and invest money as an artist in order to put your money to work for you and relate to money in a healthy, strong way as thriving business owners do. I had just spoken with her privately a few days earlier, and heard her map out a plan of action for the next five years that was one of the clearest I had heard from any artist, and she had just gotten back from traveling almost non-stop for the last month in an effort to build her business in two other areas of the country, so she missed the first four weeks of the course material and was just now able to catch up. And her she was, on the call with the rest of the group, doing just that.
And she was feeling behind.
I took the next 15 minutes to address this feeling, as it is one of the biggest Jedi mind tricks we fall for as artists when we begin to look at our businesses and notice that we are stepping into a new place of potential and power. Our minds begin to light up, we see the amount of work it will take in order to reach a goal we now clearly see how to reach laid out in front of us and we suddenly feel like we are never going to get there, even though we see that if we do exactly what we are seeing we will reach that goal without question.
Somehow, our minds turn what we know is the most exciting prospect we could hope for- the ability to set a goal for the growth of our businesses with our art- into an alarming state of affairs, as if we may never be able to conquer the tasks we now have on our plates alone, or at all. And this kind of paralysis can actually keep us from even beginning those tasks, as our minds take over and keep us in a trance-like state of fight or flight.
I know Willy is not alone in feeling this way because, quite frankly, this is normal for everyone to experience as humans, but primarily for artists around building our businesses with our art. The main reason for this is because of the way our minds perceive our businesses and business growth.
The mind has one function within our nervous systems- to keep us feeling safe and secure. The problem is that its only measure is based on what we have experienced in the past so any new experience that threatens to shape a new future for us, no matter how small that experience may be, causes the mind to send us a warning sign that something potentially threatening might be coming our way.
As an example, the mind experiences everything in binaries- when we acknowledge something as “good”, the mind processes that feeling by bringing up “bad” at the same time. When we acknowledge something as “bad” the mind processes that by bringing up “good” at the same time. Think of a time when you have been feeling hungry and you remember you have a big piece of chocolate cake in your refrigerator. Your mind immediately processes that as “good” because if you eat that cake it will meet a need you have that the mind understands as enjoyable from a past experience. The primary feeling is “good” although we know it may actually be “bad” to eat that cake at that particular point in time and so have to actively convince ourselves it is not a good idea, contrary to what our mind is telling us.
The “bad” actually arose in our minds at the same time as the “good”, we just didn’t notice it because in the past chocolate cake has been registered as a “good”- if not “very good”- sensation. So the opposite just naturally arises without us giving any energy to it.
But the opposite happens when we experience a feeling around something entirely new- like building a business, which is something that as artists has most often felt like a far-off dream that we never really saw ourselves reaching anytime soon- that the mind begins to send us a warning sign to make sure we are not entering into a dangerous activity because we have no compass for this particular behavior yet in our lives. So suddenly, when we look at what we have laid out in front of us, knowing these actions are going to bring us inevitably to a goal we have always wanted to reach- no matter how big or small- the “bad” side of the “good/bad” binary arises as the primary focus in our nervous systems, and we have to actively oppose it by convincing ourselves it will be good for us to do, the opposite of what we have to do when we don’t want to eat chocolate cake.
This sensation the mind sends to our nervous systems can manifest in a number of different ways- from making us feel overwhelmed, as if we can’t complete the tasks, to making us feel sick to our stomachs, to brining up a story from our past that doesn’t even relate to the present moment but somehow serves as a warning sign that doing these tasks could lead to something “not good.”
This kind of confusion can seriously stop us from taking action around what we know we want to do to grow our businesses as artists, as it can lead to the kind of paralysis so many artists are familiar with- blockage, inability to get into the “zone of creativity”, perfectionism. Here is where we need to stop and recognize what is actually happening in our brains and nervous systems and consciously soothe our minds into believing it will be ok as we take on these new tasks. This can sometimes feel ridiculous, or lead us to feel like there’s something wrong with us because we are having such an absolute meltdown over something that, ordinarily, we would tackle like an absolute pro.
But having awareness around the fact that this is what is actually happening in these moments- that our minds are trying to warn us that it doesn’t recognize this new journey we are about to take- can turn that ridiculous feeling around and make us see that self-care and nurturing is actually necessary on a biological level in these moments- and that we can get past them with no problem, and rather quickly when we acknowledge it from this perspective. We simply have to embrace those moments of frightening, non-logical feelings and treat them like that piece of chocolate cake- simply tell ourselves the opposite is actually true from what our minds are telling us in that moment.
This is precisely what makes running a business the most challenging, as business owners are constantly entering into new projects, new territory and- most importantly for all artists to understand- breaking past limits on the amount of money they make. There is nothing more alarming to the mind than the prospect of making more money than you have in the past- or than what your current benchmark is for the amount your mind has become confortable with. About to make more than you have in your own past? The mind will start to send crazy signals through your body that this may be a problem. Starting to make more money than your parents ever have? The mind will start to tell you you need to feel guilty about that, or throw you into a story from your past that will have you thinking this is potentially NOT a good idea.
So when Willy said she was feeling “overwhelmed because she has so much laid out in front of her and she is so behind,” I say that is simply her mind warning her that she is about to accomplish something so extraordinary for herself, her business and the incredible clients she serves. And those tasks she has in front of her are the simplest part of her process- the most challenging part is learning how to bring her mind to a place of neutrality so she can get on with those tasks without halting her own process.
The best way to do this is to work in small circles. Meaning, you continuously focus on breaking the tasks you have in front of you down into bite-sized pieces and completing them all, one at a time, in your own time. You set a timer to get them done if you have to- and walk away as soon as that timer goes off, no matter what, to let yourself process what you just completed and then come back and do the next thing. You make sure you do these tasks knowing you will have gaps, and you expect those gaps to be there because you don’t know everything already- and you get very good at enlisting the help of those who have the answers you need for those gaps that come up that are unique to you. And you keep coming back to the present moment, to where you are right now, and don’t let yourself think, but rather do what you need to do, until you have met your own deadlines and own goals within your own business plan with and for your art.
This is exactly how the 14-Day Challenge and The Profit Canvas courses are laid out to help you automatically get out of your own way- or the way of your mind- and create progress in your business where you may have never seen progress before.
And this is exactly why I know artists are hardwired to run the best businesses in the world- because we are naturally designed to step into the unknown and get past our own internal fears and stories to evolve, create and grow. That is exactly what growing a business requires, as long as we understand that that is where our real challenge lies.
So to recap how to eliminate overwhelm while building your business:
1. Work in small circles
2. Take action and walk away
3. Continuously remind yourself to come back to the present moment
Now I’d like to hear from you- in what ways have you felt- or are feeling- overwhelmed, and how can you now turn that overwhelm around into being more productive in the ways you know you need in order to grow your business with your art?
Please share in the comments below, as it is now more important than ever to make sure we are in a state of taking action to grow our businesses with our art, make sure our voices are heard and, most importantly, that we are growing our streams of revenue so that we lift ourselves up to a new level of authority and leadership as artists contributing to growing and strengthening our economy.
The Artists In Business podcast is launching soon- be sure to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you haven’t yet scheduled your interview to have your work showcased on the show to help spread the word about your business with your art!