Get Out of Your Funk, Just Change Your Mind!
This post is inspired by a number of Facebook posts and situations happening with friends of mine. It got me thinking about getting stuck in a rut. We all do it, but why? And, what if anything we can do to change it?
We can all get stuck in a rut, fact is most of us go through stages of self doubt, at work, or in life we have just hit a plateau and there doesn't seem to be a next step, or next level. One Headshot Crew colleague of mine based in Canada recently remarked "Sometimes I need to remind myself I am a good Photographer". Questioning his own skill level showing self doubt. In essence changing his mind, from a negative mindset, to a more assuring one.
The difference between creatives and people in standard jobs is we have our own physical images as a gauge to look at. Not only that, it's always previous work, and probably a session we learned something from. So each session after it is better and now all we see are faults the previous work..
I remember my mentor, the worlds leading headshot photographer, Peter Hurley talking about when he photographed Mikhail Baryshnikov the famous ballet dancer and freaked out when he heard the last person the dancer, who is very rarely photographed was shot by was Annie Leibovitz. He took the bull by the balls and did it anyway.
Remember we are talking about someone voted one of the Top 10 Living Photographers, and one of the Top 20 Most inspirational Photographers to have ever lived. If Peter gets nervous before doing something new or outside of his comfort zone, I think any of us can be forgiven for having the same nerves. Letting self doubt become crippling self doubt is something we cannot allow.
"Courage is not the absence of fear. It is taking action despite it".
The Science Bit.
Neuroscience says "Repetition dulls the mind". So by performing the same actions, over and over we become bored and lazy and it is easy to get into a funk and it can be very difficult to get out of it because each of those thoughts, is two neurons firing together. The more you think those thoughts, the stronger the bond between those neurons becomes.
We have 3 Brains developed over our evolution. The NeoCortex, The Limbic Brain and the Cerebellum. The NeoCortex is the walnut bit. The Limbic Brain in the centre looks like a lemon and the Cerebellum (reptilian brain) is the oldest part evolutionarily speaking, sits at the back underneath.
The Walnut, is where we think and learn. Each new thought is neurons connecting together, the more we have that thought, the stronger this new "Synaptic" connection becomes.
i.e. Having your photograph taken.
Nobody ever walks into me in studio and says, "John, you're gonna have to dial it down a bit here. I am gonna rock it, so just to keep order in society, we will bring me back down to general mankind level". Everybody comes in with the same nerves.
Even though it's only having your photograph taken, and it hasn't happened yet, the sensation and feelings you get from seeing other photographs you have hated of yourself come flooding back. Your body does not know the difference between real danger like a Lion, or just the thoughts of that situation.
So what is happening here is your body does not know the difference between an interview and a lion. It just knows stress.
Your "Walnut" is saying this is bad, the "Lemon" is releasing hormone codes to the Reptillian brain (which runs the rest of the body) to say it's get out of here time. These hormones cause things like your pupils to dilate, blood to rush to your arms and legs in order to run away or fight, your blood pressure goes up as does your heart rate and breath rate. Now is not the time for answering questions. That is why you are blank.
Breaking the Cycle!
Okay so we said repetition dulls the mind. So by practicing over and over we become accustom to the sensation of this fear. We become practiced at our own response to it and over time it lessens.
To break that cycle we need to act, despite the fear. Deciding that instead of fear or anger, we will show compassion or understanding. In deciding this we are creating new Synaptic connections, the physical act of changing our minds. The more we reenforce these new connections with the same thoughts, the stronger theses new bonds become, weakening the old thoughts until they barely exist. This is true of any practice. Remember how stressful it was learning to drive? With practice the nerves all but vanished, or learning to ride a bike, riding a roller coaster for the first time or even falling in love.