Updated: Sep 11
For as much as I get done in a day (and it’s a lot!), I’m in a constant negotiation with this feeling of being stuck. When I say “stuck”, what I really mean is that I know what I need or want to do, but instead of just doing it, I find a whole mess of excuses why it can wait until tomorrow, next week, or even next year. It usually comes around when I’m on the verge of taking a risk, or being exposed, or when I get caught up caring what other people will think.
That last one is a big one – worrying what other people think. It trips me up more than I care to admit because like everyone else, I am so conditioned to filter what I want for my life through other people’s limited understanding. So, I procrastinate. Make excuses. Create distraction and put it off until tomorrow.
But when I put this very real desire for change and risk off for too long, it starts to haunt me in my waking and dream life. It comes knocking. It stirs me deeply and whisper in my ear, now is the time.
Cue the stomach ache and low-grade dread. Cue the jumbo bag of chips and a few episodes of House Hunters to help me forget. Or maybe impulse buying on Amazon is more your thing. On Friday, it looked like sitting in the grocery store parking lot scrolling social media for 45 minutes because I had a big decision to make that feels really risky, and I simply didn’t want to make it.
The world offers up an endless selection of distractions that help prolong our action around the work we actually need and want to do. Perhaps it’s a conversation that needs to take place, or just simply getting up the nerve to say hello in the school parking lot or at the gym. Maybe it’s applying for that Master’s Program you’ve wanted to do since college. Or finally quitting the job that hasn’t been a fit for the last five years, and pivoting to a new career entirely.
Whatever the desire, big or small, we are masters of distraction. And yet there are some among us that appear to be born without this affliction. Those that say they will and then they do. We love them and loathe their discipline in equal measure. We tell ourselves they have special powers, special bank accounts, special connections that give them an advantage.
But do they?
Being a constant student of life, I’ve spent a good amount of time observing successful people who seem to be the exception to this paralyzing default. It turns out they have it, too. But they’ve just figured out how to ignore it, work around it and, do it anyway.
Since I’m getting a fair amount of practice these days around unsticking myself and doing it anyway, I’ve gleaned from these folks a very tidy three step practice. It’s not fool proof, of course, because there is a human involved, but more often than not it works for tricking my fear and resistance into looking the other way, while I slip past them and move into action around the things I want the most.
Get Quiet and Get Clear
This seems counter-intuitive since taking action seems like the logical first step, but before action can be taken, it’s important to clearly and specifically define what it is we really want. Maybe it’s going from a five-day work week to four days. Maybe it’s taking a class at the community college, or asking to be considered for the management position. Maybe it’s taking July off every year to spend summer break with the kids (oh, wait, that’s me!), or maybe it’s spending Sundays on a hillside painting, because painting is what feels good. Whatever it is, name it in simple terms and then write it down.
Once it’s written down, then name what could be the potential road blocks. You might find that YOU are the only thing that makes it on this section of the list. But it also could be a whole bunch of other things. No judgment on this part, just put down what seems like the most likely things to derail this endeavor.
And then lastly for this exercise, describe the outcome you’re hoping for. How will it feel to have done it or to regularly do it? Who will be there? What does it look like? This is a really important part, not to be missed, because it puts color into the picture, and helps it feel like it's already true, which is an incredibly powerful place to tap into.
Once you get quiet and get clear, then comes the first step in that direction. All you need is the first one. If you’re like me, I never think it’s as simple as just one first step. I love to look at the finish line and then spend all sorts of time strategizing how to skip all of the in-between steps. I’m here to tell you what you already know – it rarely works that way.
The only way to get across that line is to begin with the first small step, and then the next small step and then another one after that. Don’t worry about tomorrow’s leg of the race, just focus on today, and this one step that needs doing. This has been the biggest game changer for me, because focusing on just one thing, and then just the next thing, very quickly creates real progress and from that comes real flow, which is a fancy way of saying you've got momentum.
What happens when you've got momentum? You just keep moving. That’s the law of inertia – an object in motion stays in motion. Yes, some road block might present itself without warning. Yes, there are going to be days when you have to detour or retrace steps. Yes, some days you won’t feel like it. But those won’t be the norm when you just keep moving. Just keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving in small and kind ways. It’s all you really have to do. And then one day you wake up and you are on the threshold of the thing you want the most.
I would have loved to come on here today and break all the molds with some new way to hack getting unstuck, but here's the beauty about these kinds of things - the solution is simple, and we all have access to it. This isn't stuff reserved for special people with superpower discipline, but I can't wait to see you look like you're one.