What’s Holding You Back?
It recently occurred to me that there are many smart people walking around with brilliant ideas in their heads, but just a small few of them can manage to take action and make something happen.
Why is action so elusive? What can be done about it? How can you move toward productivity and create change? After all, if you don’t do anything different today, tomorrow will be just like today.
So why not do something? Anything? What’s holding you back?
Many ruminations have been put forth, and multiple studies have been done trying to figure out what keeps many from moving forward and taking action. There are piles of articles and books and plenty of ideas on this very topic.
Here is just a brief look at five common roadblocks you can consider if you are feeling stuck.
Overthinking is an occurrence that happens as we age. In our childhood, our innocent curiosity tends to feed our adventurous and instinctual side. As we grow older, we collect gads of information and obtain all sorts of knowledge. Because we have so much more knowledge, we may feel compelled to over-analyze all this information in an effort to be sure that we do the absolute right thing. This will likely leave us overwhelmed and possibly paralyzed.
Try to get away from overthinking and trust yourself. However, be warned – avoiding the overthinking trap may require a determined effort as it seems that we are hardwired to end up in this trap. This is a time when it will require more work to do less thinking.
The goal is action. While it is easy to overthink and paralyze yourself with worry it is better, harder, but better for sure, to just do something and err on the side of action. Once you take action, you have created change and you have something to work with and revise. Keep in mind that it should be purposeful action, not mindless flailing.
Indecision is often fueled by fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of being wrong. Fear of looking bad or feeling bad. This is why they defer the deferred in planned giving. Why be afraid? Your actions need not be considered either failure or success but rather learning experiences. The more learning experiences under your belt, the better. Of course, don’t be reckless.
Clarity of self and goal matter. Not being committed to one position or another or just being out of touch with yourself can leave you vacillating between paths and goals. There’s no good way to move forward without self-knowledge and a goal. Knowing yourself well – including your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes – is vital in avoiding the the pitfalls of floundering in a gray area.
Create a vivid picture in your mind of you and your future. Define a clear goal, and, along the way, take the time to be sure you are being honest with yourself. A clearly defined achievable goal is easier to envision if you know yourself well and can plan accordingly. Once you have a crystalized goal, it is easier to take that first action step. Dolly Parton has famously said “find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
Why put a large looming intimidating mountain in your sights when you could probably take your task and break it down into smaller manageable hills? Take a look at the big picture and then examine the parts of the whole task. Try to figure out step-by-step what needs to be done. Once you break the task down into smaller and easier steps, you might find yourself ready to start immediately. Vague, broad, and large tasks are not so easy to surmount. But as soon as you break them down into smaller actionable steps, it becomes much easier. This is where time management also comes into play. Here’s how Rebecca Langley tells how to add hours into your week and Chelsea Dinsmore on how to be massively productive.
Did you think we could talk about action blockers without discussing procrastination? Of course not. Everyone procrastinates sometimes. Too often and too much can be draining and debilitating. To get around it, realize that there is no easy answer to wiping it from your life. Procrastination needs to be confronted on a day to day basis.
On the days when you are feeling particularly overcome with procrastination, experts suggest a few tricks. First, try to identify what is holding you back. There are countless reasons why we begin to procrastinate. It is on you to take the time to know why and how to get the job done. Second – reward yourself for work done. Whether you break it down into sections or take it on at once, be sure to reward yourself for getting the job done !!
A Secret on Procrastination …
Keep a lookout for a common fuel of procrastination — a state of perfectionism. It’s surprisingly easy to prevent yourself from completing a job because you never think it is going to be “right”. Let it go. It’s better to finish and fix then to not finish at all.
Remember … getting something “right” is like asking someone whether something is “fair” – often than not, opinions and often facts vary. So, as I said, let it go.
Some closing advice: Keep your plans of action a secret. That’s right, keep them a secret. It may seem counterintuitive, but studies have shown (most recently in 2009 by Gollwitzer / NIH) that a public commitment reduces our motivation. One possible explanation is that just by the act of saying it out loud we have fed satisfaction to the part of our brain that was hungry for the goal, so now it is, in essence less hungry and therefore less motivated. So keep quiet.