The role energy plays in getting unstuck

Typically when we feel stuck or uninspired there are two major culprits: a misunderstanding or a lack of energy.

In the first case, we’re stuck because we have incomplete information.

Like trying to finish a puzzle before you’ve pulled all of the pieces out of the box, the only way to move forward is to proactively pursue the missing pieces. I’ve written about creativity as understanding before. To better understand what knowledge we may be missing, we should focus on asking questions about our process, the task at hand, and any ideas that come to mind.

But the second case, of having a lack of energy, is an entirely different type of stuck.

Energy is a rare commodity, both outside of ourselves and internally as well. When you work on anything for any amount of time, your brain physically changes shape in order to optimize the energy required to do it. We call this process of mental change “learning.”

But learning creates a problem for having new ideas or overcoming challenges, it causes us to inevitably get stuck.

You approach the work the same way for so long that it becomes costly to try and do it any other way. It would require more energy to change how you’ve done the work or thought about it, despite the fact that changing how you’re approaching the problem is the only way to innovate on it. This also explains why bad habits are so difficult to shake.

We become stuck because we maximize how we use energy for a given situation or problem. We essentially train our brains to only think in a certain, very familiar, way. Which inevitably leads us to feeling creatively stuck.

To get unstuck we must find surplus of energy, enough to make thinking in a new (and potentially risky) way feel more worthwhile.

Businesses, relationships, and everyday life fall into this trap too.

After doing things a certain way for so long, it becomes difficult to even see how they could be different, let alone try to incite change.

Trying something different requires more energy than the people involved are willing to invest, so the business is beat by more agile competitors, the relationship becomes stale and boring, and life becomes a dry routine.

In these situations and in getting creatively unstuck, the solution is to find a source of energy you can use for the sake of changing how you’re doing things.

For the sake of getting creativity unstuck we can take lessons from how those in the other situations do it.

In a relationship, sometimes the only way to get more energy is to take a break. To conserve some of the energy you do have in order to make a push for improving circumstances in the future.

In business, pulling in new energy sources (like through an acquisition) can spur change effortlessly. Relying on new individuals to help provoke new ways of thinking or behaving can make getting unstuck seem effortless.

Embracing new partnerships, reallocating energy from different areas of your life, and utilizing activities that give more energy than they take away, are all other ways we can get the energy needed to overcome creative blocks.

Of course, this also helps explain why many creative-types tend to drink so much coffee.

(If you need a boost to get unstuck and aren’t sure where to look first, it’s worth mentioning I wrote a book to inspire your creativity.)