I love the saying, ‘if you want something doing, ask a busy person’ – the theory being they are so busy they will get the job done as swiftly and efficiently as possible, as they don’t have any time to worry about doing it so simply get on and just do.
However busy I am though, there are always some things that I end up feeling totally stuck on. I procrastinate about how to do it just right, get into overwhelm at the enormity of the task ahead, or don’t know where to start. The solution for why we sometimes don’t get ahead with a particular goal or task actually often lies in the very difficulty we are experiencing that’s stopping us in our tracks. When my clients figure out which of these applies to them, often a lightbulb moment occurs that helps to breakthrough and get on with the job at hand. For example:
This is the mother of all evils when it comes to time-stealing. Especially in this age of prolific social media, but lets face it, those of use around long enough to remember pre-FB days will still have experienced procrastination. There’s always something you can distract yourself with when you don’t want to get on with the task in front of you!
The real problem here is often perfectionism. Thinking that we must do something 100% ‘right’, in order to do it at all. That’s simply not true – think about it, if you could wave a magic wand right now you’d rather be halfway to achieving what you want, than still on the starting blocks, surely?? Time will march on regardless of if you are working on your goals in life or not, so the key is to just get on and get started, no matter if it’s along the idealistic path you had imagined or not.
The best way I’ve found to overcome perfectionism is to allow yourself a ‘practice run’ at something, and tell yourself if you don’t like how it works out you can do it again, better or bigger, next time round. So perhaps you’re frustrated that you can’t find the time to design a ‘proper’ all singing all-dancing website for your business, so you don’t bother at all. In this scenario the key would be to just do what you have time for – let yourself off the hook for a week and experiment with doing what you can instead, like setting up a free wordpress blog for example. You may well find that once you ‘make do’ in this way, rather than set unrealistic standards that you can’t actually sustain long-term, you get the ball rolling and find you’re halfway there anyway.
To read more about this just have-a-go attitude, take a look at this description of Play Projects from Marianne Cantwell, whose book Free Range Humans is where I first came across the idea. I’ve used the technique in several scenarios when I’ve felt stuck working towards a goal, and its always helped.
Overwhelm can actually be easily beaten by doing the opposite of what is normally advised by motivational experts – rather than facing up to your task or goal, hide your head in the sand! By this I mean yes, absolutely identify your end goal and make it a SMART one (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, timebound), but once you’ve written it down or got it fixed in your head, FORGET about it. Focus instead on the tiniest of small steps in the right direction towards that goal.
Stephen Guise, founder of the Deep Existence blog and author of Mini Habits has written extensively about this subject. He advocates getting started on goals by setting the bar as low as possible in order to breakthrough the ‘failure’ barrier and get you in a head-space where you are achieving positive things on a daily basis. He started his fitness journey, for example, with 1 simple push up a day. Almost impossible to fail at, but almost inevitably leading on to bigger and better things.
I took this approach when I wanted to incorporate more walking into my daily routine. I’d initially been aiming to walk my 40 minute commute home from work on a daily basis, but kept finding excuses not to – it was raining, my shoes hurt, I needed to get home fast. So I lowered the bar to just walking to the next bus stop instead, which was only around 300 yards away. I found that 9 times out of 10 once my headphones were in, favourite music playing, and I had my stride on, my thoughts would wonder and before I knew it I was halfway home with the feelgood exercise endorphins flowing. Win!
When we don’t know where to start with achieving a goal, we often end up feeling stuck. Many times the real problem is likely to be that you don’t actually know HOW to achieve your goal. This is often the case when we are trying to do something we’ve never done before – after all, it must be new in some way to us, otherwise we would already have achieved it if we had been there, done that, right?
The key here is to realise you don’t need to figure out how you will reach your goal right from the start. This is because what’s important is not knowing how you will get there, but just continually moving in the right direction. Even if you did have a clear strategy in place, you would be very likely to veer off course, change tack and try new methods along the way, even if you did have a ‘perfect recipe’ for success. Think of it like your SatNav – you put in the destination, start driving and along the way the route becomes clear.
So the best way to get past this issue? It’s to brainstorm a list of things you could do right away to get going on your goal, pick one and do it there and then. No messing, no fuss. Just get the ball rolling and then reassess how you feel about moving forward with your goal once you are a step along the way… you may well find you feel a lot clearer about the path ahead once you get yourself out of ‘stuck’ by taking real action.
I hope these ways around common frustrations helps – and let me know how you like to get going when you’re stuck!