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Self Confidence for the Creative Mind

Written by Val Sopi on Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Napoleon Bonaparte

Jacques Louis David — Bonaparte franchissant le Grand Saint-Bernard, 20 mai 1800.

Today, I received a newsletter from, Justin Jackson. By the way, if you’re not reading his blog yet, you should. In his newsletter, Justin talks about one issue that we’re all too familiar with: lack of motivation, which can greatly hurt your self confidence. Without a healthy dose of self motivation you start falling behind and others may not get to experience your true greatness.

These feelings of helplessness, as far as I am concerned, are usually related to my brain being overloaded with everything I have to get done. You see, I like to think myself as an organized person and generally attempt to finish everything at once. This approach is highly detrimental to my confidence as a creative professional, because more often than not it puts my brain in creative lockdown. At this point I’m so overwhelmed with what I have on my plate, that I can’t even bring myself to decipher singular pieces of the puzzle.

However, to overcome this situation, I leverage a couple of strategies I’ve picked up along the way that help me get back on track. One of these strategies, kindly labeled “brain dump”, was mentioned by Justin in his newsletter and I felt compelled to elaborate on it a bit more.

Brain dump: a self confidence booster

Brain dump has a couple of various related meanings. The concept I like the most for this particular post is the one where you take everything that is occupying your brain and dump it out, literally almost. The trick is not to hold back while you are doing this as the sole exercise will have more effect on your relaxation than the actual results. One of the main reasons you may lack focus and confidence is because you are overwhelmed with priorities that may not be that important in the first place.

How to accomplish a successful brain dump

First and foremost, to execute a successful brain dump you must take a piece of paper and start writing down everything that is occupying your gray matter. These could be personal plans, worries, professional tasks, deadlines, promises, hopes and dreams, and even the car wash you’e been postponing all this time. There shouldn’t be a cohesive narrative to this process. It’s literally pouring everything down on paper. Some of it may not even make sense. Also, you must stray away from extensively filtering yourself.

Categorizing a brain dump

After you’ve poured your brains out on a piece of paper, you must categorize each item. Try to keep these categories simple. Categories that usually work for me are:

  • Family
  • Personal
  • Professional

It’s better if you stick with these categories as you’re in the process of simplifying a complex process.

Prioritizing your brain dump

Now that you have your entire brain organized in three simple categories, it’s time to give each item a time reference.

  • Now (N)
  • This Week (TW)
  • Someday (SD)

Use these letters to mark each item. The example below illustrates the process.

Health Insurance (N)
Mountain Lodge (SD)

Car Wash (TW)
Go to Grad School (SD)
Birthday Presents (TW)

Deliver Nike Website (N)
Get a new office (SD)
Staff Retreat (TW)

As you can see not everything that was occupying my brain is a priority. I have 2 things that have to be done Now, 3 This Week, and a Few Someday.

To clean-up my plate even further, I will take the liberty and move my “Someday”; plans to my dream board. What I’m left with are 5 priorities that have to be done between Now and This Week.

This is a simplified exercise, but after you’ve done your first brain dump, you’ll notice that some things do not deserve your immediate attention.

A brain dump is a good exercise to repeat every other week or so. It will help you clear your mind and increase your creative self confidence. It can also be done with your group, staff, or family. It’s completely open source and you can modify it as you please : )

Note that if you’re still feeling overwhelmed after pouring your brains out, you must start saying “No” more often and begin considering getting out of some of the commitments you’ve already made. Your confidence and your own self are more important than anything around you, because if you’re not fully optimized, there is no way you can help anyone else.

I cannot end this article without mentioning a few other techniques that will help bolster your confidence and increase your motivation.

Self rejuvenation through friends

The more I am involved in my profession, the more I tend to stick with friends that do what I’m doing. Having “professional” friends helps me keep up with the latest technologies, tips, and trick in the industry. But, i’s equally important to me to have friends outside of work that are doing something completely different. These friends help me fire up areas of the brain which could get dull over time. Mind you, I’m not a brain examiner, but I have found that whenever I take a prolonged break from things I know best, I tend to be much sharper and focused upon return. Not to mention that my confidence gets a boost and I am ready to take over the world, all over again. Some professionals, such as Stefan Sagmeister, vouch for longer breaks and report amazing results. However, if you find Sagmeister’s approach too extreme, smaller time-outs may do wonders for you.

Exercising your confident self

Few weeks ago, Tyler wrote an extensive piece on how to recharge your batteries. No, it doesn’t showcase a hidden trick or a shortcut to bettering your physical self — it’s rather a reminder to take breaks, dedicate yourself to permanent change, and take care of your creative self.

Confident thoughts

Remember, if you are not fully optimized, you will never be able to deliver 100% of your perfection. Also, having a healthy dose of self confidence is highly attractive. At the end of the day, we all love to work with people who radiate confidence and positivity, because it’ a reflection we’d like to see ourselves in.

Read next: It’s not Innovation, it’s Process Improvement.

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