Professional paralysis can be very contagious. It does not take much to trigger it. The reason being is that it is so closely tied to our emotions. Make no mistake, what we engage in is not just physical labor, it is emotional labor. It requires our emotions to pour our efforts into our craft, to put ourselves out there to be judged and to risk failure in the hopes of turning a passion into a profession

I’ve had the paralysis set off simply by losing a bid on a project or having something I did get rejected by the client. If it is not handled effectively, it can spread throughout you. It will slow you down until it ultimately stops you completely.

There were numerous days in recent memory where I was paralyzed from doing the work I wanted to do. I hid behind binge watching shows on Netflix or playing video games. That was a much safer ground than the hard work of doing something risky.

Over the years I’ve developed a few ways to stop and counteract this paralysis.

The first is to fail fast and hard and then move on. I apply this when I lose a project that I was proposing or bidding on. I allow myself to get angry – sometimes very angry. I vent it all out instead of bottling it up and then the very next morning I force myself to hit the ground again. I already got the mourning out of my system, now I have to get back to work. I don’t allow the sulking to ever last more than a single day thus preventing it from spreading.

Sometimes I will start a personal project. We all chose this line of work because we have a love for what we do – after all it wasn’t for the money as there is not much to go around. So I get to the basics of my love for the craft. I will do a personal photo shoot, something creative and challenging to give myself enjoyment, which can fuel my ability to get back to work afterwards.

I will find a way to give myself a small win. Perhaps it is a small project that I can accomplish successfully, or a photo I can take and achieve well. Giving myself that victory, albeit a tiny one, is all I might need to move forward.

Lastly, I will come up with a list of perhaps five great things I’ve done or accomplished and write them down, reciting them back to myself. This could be the final reassurance I need to unstick myself from the professional paralysis.

James Patrick, ACG, ALB
IG @jpatrickphoto