How can your thoughts change the outcome of a creative project?

Don't Mess Up

I've noticed that if I start working on a project with the thought “Don’t mess up” nagging my brain, I tend to pursue safe ideas and avoid taking creative risks. This thought creates high expectations for myself that puts the emphasis failure.

Having high expectations for yourself isn't bad. However for me, high expectations can cause a feeling of anxiety. If I give into this feeling, unexpected solutions to a problem get stifled, because in my mind they might not work. The tried and true ideas win out. The result is something that gets the job done - nothing particularly exciting, but safe. 

Make it Great

On the other hand, when I begin working on a project with the goal of “Make it great”, I have a totally different feeling. Thinking in this way puts my focus on play, taking risks, and putting something out there that is bold and exciting.

With this mindset, I tend to get lost in the flow of creating because I’m not worried about whether or not an idea fails. I’m working from a relaxed state where ideas and solutions flow naturally. I’m totally engrossed in the pure joy of making.


You can use this concept as a framework for your own thinking. When you’re up against that “don’t mess up” feeling, shift your perspective by filling in the blank below with a word that makes you feel more relaxed, energized, or confident.

“Make it _____.”

Have a job interview? Instead of thinking “don’t mess it up”, try “make it conversational.” Giving a presentation? “Make it unexpected.” Starting a high-pressure project? “Make it fun.”


The next time you’re faced with a challenge and you feel pressure to perform, take a minute to be aware of your own thinking. See if you can reframe the problem for yourself with a simple thought that takes the pressure off and lets creative ideas come to life.