There are small factors in our psyche and subconscious mind that we can actually manipulate, through habits and a simple mindset shift.
This allows us to laser-target our focus, become clear-minded, and develop a sense of purpose in this life — let’s get to that in a minute.
In this article, overwhelm and soul-crushing anxiety paralysis can be chalked down to 3 things;
- Not having a clear focus or action steps
- Invisible barriers
However, this simple list touches on a myriad of deeply rooted psychosis and internal workings responsible for overwhelm… and in the case of adding bits of my own story throughout this article, I’ll share my invisible barriers (the thoughts and doubts that held me back), and how I was able to conquer them in lieu of boring you with technical details…
(You can thank me later)
Handling an Influx of Information
Nobody is talking about having too many ideas to pursue.
There are tons of techniques to overcome writers block, a lack of creativity, or the ‘blank page syndrome’… but what if you have too many ideas to pursue?
And even more importantly, what if you want to become successful at your pursuit?
You might want to get paid for playing music, drawing, creating some kind of art, writing that book you feel you need to get out into the world, and the 100 other things that you feel like you should be doing because life is short.
Seriously though… life is shorter than you think. I’ve unfortunately had to learn this the hard way after watching my mom and friends MY OWN AGE die, before I started to really ‘get serious’ about the pursuits in my life.
I hope you don’t have to experience that, and you certainly don’t to light a fire under you – even if you are lost and feel like the life you want is equivalent to jumping across the grand canyon.
The billionaire Mark Cuban still remembers, before he was successful, writing out a list of things he might want to pursue.
It’s a natural process, and even the most successful people in the world all go through overwhelming decisions, and that question that seems to be most prevalent in all – what do we want to do?
Every entrepreneur’s mind goes crazy with the new and exciting things she can do beyond the new and exciting things she is already doing… Bottom line is this: If you are adding new things when your core businesses are struggling rather than facing the challenge, you are either running away or giving up.”
This quote from his book Sport of Business can easily be related to life and choosing something to pursue.
When things get difficult, down and out, challenging, and hard, we tend to chase after something new for the excitement.
Why? Because pursuing something new is fun and creates adrenaline and dopamine in our brains, something we can’t resist as humans.
This is a problem of course — a big one.
It is mostly so because it’s almost out of our control, controlled by our habits, our lizard brain, our ego, and psychological factors that sheer willpower alone doesn’t stand a chance.
Unless we explore how to manipulate the source, we can’t hope to change or just drill through something when we feel most uninspired, depressed, or overwhelmed.
There was an interesting experiment conducted by Dan Ariely, in which participants played a computer game consisting of multiple rooms. Each room had different payoffs.
- In the first experiment, players naturally found the room that offered the highest payout and stayed there the remainder of the game.
- In the second experiment, all the other rooms around them would start to close if they remained in the room. It yielded in an interesting result.
Players found the room with the most payout, but since they wanted to keep the other options open (and avoid loss aversion) they continued to switch around rooms to keep them open.
Saying no isn’t something cut-and-dry and easily executed with willpower. It has psychological roots that can make it very difficult.
It’s that nagging voice in your head that keeps telling you ‘if you don’t pursue x and focus only on y, you’ll lose out on x’. This is called loss aversion, and explains why we get this thing called ‘overwhelm & anxiety paralysis’
In the experiment where the doors were disappearing, Ariely reports 58% of the players switched rooms to keep them open than they did in the constant condition, willingly decreasing their payoff (an average of 9%).
The power of a single focus is something that seems easy. It’s simple enough to understand. Yet the majority of us struggle with simplicity the most. Especially in todays age, where literally any piece of information is at our fingertips, as we are bombarded with social media in this ‘always on’ world.
When you find your single focus, your main “one” thing, and devote all your energy into it until you reach your goals or desired outcome, that’s how you’ll be able to accomplish goal after goal.
If you think of yourself as a computer, computers have limited processing power.
The more programs you have open, that limited processing power has to be divided up into those processes to make them run.
For every time the processing power is divided, each of those programs take longer to run, and just bog right down.
I used to play this game called ‘Uplink’, where you could simulate hacking for fun. I remember you could run a password cracker program on a system, and it would take about 2 minutes to crack the password if ALL the processing power was dedicated to that program.
When I had five programs running, my processing power was divided 5 times, and made my password cracker take 5 times longer to finish — and by that time, I was caught and failed the game.
I realized if I dedicated 100% of my processing power to that one program and ran it until it was done, before moving onto the next program, my success rate went through the roof.
It wasn’t until after studying 100s of successful people that I realized they do the exact same, that I applied it into my life. Naturally we are hesitant to focus on a single thing because we feel as if by ignoring all our other desires, we are losing out.
This doesn’t just happen on a logical, rational and conscious level.
Logically I understand that I should be dedicating 100% of my focus on one of my pursuits, yes.
But the second I try to block everything out and focus, thoughts creep up from my subconscious. Habits, procrastination, self-doubt creep into my psyche because of this psychological bias called loss aversion.
I’m sure you’ve felt it too, if you pay close attention, it might come as a slight pressure in your stomach or solar plexus. It’s called resistance, and it’s a beast that exists throughout multiple levels of existence too lengthy to discuss here.
What’s important right now is realizing it is there, and why it happens. [research] According to psychologists x, the weight of losing something far outweighs gaining something of equal value emotionally.
Now, I could give you a long and drawn out theory, why it works, and the psychological biases behind it, but instead I’m going to give you some crunchy bite-sized action steps you can use today to help you overcome this sinking feeling in your stomach and get out of your “stuck”-ness.
Categorizing pursuits into years
When I quit my job as a cable guy at 23, and after my girlfriend left me for another guy, I came home and blasted my weird grunge-rock music I listen to when I’m in one of those moods (KMFDM, yes I love industrial german rock…)
I really looked hard at what I wanted to do with my life, I must have made a list long enough to be it’s own book of bulleted points of things I might want to pursue.
Looking at it, there was absolutely no way I could have done everything on that list in this single lifetime.
Just one – computer science to become a certified ethical hacker and penetration tester – was at least a decade of study and colleges.
Naturally I felt like if I focused solely on one thing, I would either:
- Wake up 10 years down the road and regret the choice I made (Wasted Time)
- Fear of succeeding in that area (as strange as it sounds, I was scared of this, but not consciously..)
- What if the pursuits I ignored would have turned out better or I found more enjoyment from them? I’d never know. (Missing Out)
These ‘what ifs’ were my internal barriers — my doubts and my self-detrimental mindset.
In reality, you have two choices.
- You could try to pursue everything (not getting anywhere & burnout eventually), while feeling good that you’re not closing any doors,missing out, and avoiding regrets (that you think will happen) – or;
- You could say no to everything except one thing, and the worst case scenario is you fail, you’re right back to square one when you started.
What I realized later is, there are actually 16 personality types, and “Perceivers” have an even harder time than the rest of us when trying to laser-focus. They want to keep their options open.
Life is a huge experimentation game — any new endeavors you want to pursue, or anything you want to try in life, aim to make it light and fun.
This of course depends on what personality type you are.
If you know exactly what you want and you are a hustler, go straight for it.
If you’re experimenting, not too sure but want to try something new, it’s important to make it a fun process.
You’re not going to break anything, and your failures are not failures at all — they are learning opportunities for feedback.
You may have heard, success is a habit
Success is a habit.. it’s a result of doing the right things consistently. Every top performer will tell you this — it’s nothing new or groundbreaking. Yet this is probably the most overlooked, difficult to perform aspect to effectively ‘hacking’ your mind, your life and your success.
Here are four exercises that you can implement right now to overcome your anxiety and overwhelming ‘paralysis’.
I want you to grab a piece of paper right now – I mean it. Do it now, and briefly jot down an answer for each bullet point.
- STEP ONE: Make a short list of the things overwhelming you. (This could be career pursuits, side projects, etc.)
Mine Looks like this:
a. Learn Guitar
b. Gain 30 lbs
c. Finish my Top Performers Psychology book
d. Finish my detection novel
e. Start my persuasion business
- STEP TWO: If you could accomplish any of these in 24 hours, which one has the most impact on your life? Circle it.
Mine was Finish my Top Performers book (because it was close to being done)
I want you to note that nothing here is final. Don’t feel like by choosing one you can’t work on anything else.
We are simply identifying what has most weight in your life right now.
- STEP THREE: Set a specific 1 year goal.
Be specific and results driven.
I wanted to finish my book… this meant 60 pages with a reference section, 5 short videos for the gifts inside the book, an outreaching & promotion strategy.
But most importantly, I wanted my book complete by November, and selling 100 copies by the end of December.
Don’t worry if you feel like you can get this done in a month, a day, or even an hour.
The goal of this is to start somewhere, and chew it down into reasonable action steps AS YOU GO.
Vague idea of where to start > stuck & overwhelmed.
- STEP FOUR: This is where the magic comes together.
This is the tricky bit, but gets easier with practice.
We need to turn this goal into a daily habit, no matter how small it might seem.
We are developing action steps by working backwards from our year goal, but need to be distilled into small and repeatable daily habits.
I chose 1 hour of research, and 1 hour of writing per day, 6am – 8am.
My daily goal would be 1 page.
Sometimes I didn’t write that much, and other times I went past a page — but I had a tangible idea of that 1 page goal in my mind every time I sat down to write.
Over time I’ve developed a few mindset shifts that have eliminated feelings of stress, anxiety, worry, overwhelm and that evil dreaded paralysis that can come from information overload.
Including one time management trick that has skyrocketed my productivity, one mindset shift that eliminated my overwhelm, and a ton of persuasion, charm, and psychological hacks that make you and your life amazing – no matter what challenge you face.
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