Let’s look in on three different people who want to move ahead, but they aren’t quite sure how to go about it.
- Anna is tired of what she’s been doing with her career and she tells herself she’s just waiting for that right moment to try something new. She loves flowers and has always envisioned having a shop of her own.
- Mike is an overwhelmed, stay-at-home parent and he’s trying to juggle the lives of everyone around him, while also trying to fit in a sliver of time for himself.
- Ted has been laid-off and he’s looking for a new job. It’s been years since he’s updated his resume and he’s not even sure where to start.
In each scenario, taking the first step to something better is going to be the hardest. One of the major culprits holding Anna, Mike & Ted back is procrastination.
It’s Time To Face The Fear Of The Unknown
One major reason for procrastination is the fear of the unknown. This is an all time showstopper. In one of my earlier posts, Don’t Let Goals Sabotage Your Dreams, I wrote how neuroscience research has recently shown through MRI scans that the brain struggles with change. Humans tend to initially struggle with what isn’t familiar to them, which leads to resistance. Author Steve Pressfield gives a good explanation of resistance:
“Resistance is an invisible, internal force that arises whenever we set ourselves a challenge that will take us outside our comfort zone. Resistance is what separates the amateur from the professional, since the former gives in and puts his dreams on hold; whereas the latter persists in spite of the fear, and pushes through to success.”
It’s Time To Figure Out What Needs To Get Done
You can’t get anything accomplished if you haven’t figured out what it is you need to do.
- For Anna who wants to make a career switch, maybe she could get a part-time job at a florist to get a glimpse of what it might be like.
- For Mike who is performing that 24/7 juggling act, perhaps he could start by reaching out to online communities or other parents in his neighborhood where support can be found with folks in the same boat.
- With Ted’s job search, he could begin by thinking about the steps he’d have to take such as networking, creating or updating an existing profile on LinkedIn, etc.
It’s Time To Figure Out How To Get It Done
I’d like to walk you through a short exercise to create what I call the Quit Stalling List. This is different from a regular to-do list.
With a to-do list, you’re dealing with tasks that aren’t necessarily holding you back. They’re perhaps everyday items like get the groceries, do laundry, order new snow tires – essentially, nothing that really takes you out of your comfort zone.
Items that land on your Quit Stalling list should be those that take a bit more courage – things you’ve been putting off, but you know you really have to get to.
Steps For Your Quit Stalling List
- Grab an 8 x 10 piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side, list the top 10 things you’ve been procrastinating on. Just the act of getting it on paper and out of your head may actually start to bring some relief!
- Now, on the right side, take those same 10 items, only this time, write out the list starting with the items you are most reluctant to do and work your way down from there. The idea here is that if you can tackle the big one first; just think of how much easier the rest of your items will fall into place! Right out of the gate, you’re building up your confidence.
- Take a deep breath and work toward completing the first item on your list. If it’s a big item, make sure you break it down into manageable steps. The most important thing is to get started and to hold yourself accountable to some type of time frame.
- Continue with each item on the list and cross them off as you go.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yes, there will still be times when you lose steam. You just might not feel motivated; depending on the mood or circumstances you’re in. That’s OK. You can get off the train, but don’t wait too long to jump back on again. Work during times that best suit you as much as you can.
Let’s Check Back In On Our Three Amigos
- Anna read this post and decided she would give the Quit Stalling exercise a go. She’s an early riser, so she put aside time for a Saturday morning. After grabbing a steaming cup of coffee, Anna sits at the kitchen table and starts to focus on things she’s been procrastinating over. Before long, she has solid list – things that take a bit of courage. The first item says, make that first cold call. The week before, she got the contact information from a friend of someone who owns his own flower shop. Anna picks up the phone. Anna takes the first step.
- Ted is a night owl. He spends most evenings surfing the web. He comes across this post and is intrigued. He’s still wide-awake and decides to strike while the iron is hot. Soon, his Quit Stalling list is complete. It’s been years since Ted even had to think about looking for work and therefore, he hasn’t paid much attention to LinkedIn. It’s now on the top of his list. Ted visits the LinkedIn site and on the landing page the first thing he reads is: “Be great at what you do.” In less than 2 minutes, he’s signed up and on his way.
- For Mike, it’s been a fulfilling, yet exhausting day with his 8-month-old triplets. He loves being home with them, but he knows he could use some support. After the kids are in bed, Mike steals a few minutes to check up on emails and he notices a friend has passed this post along to him. Since this is the only time he has to himself during the day, he takes advantage of it! Like Anna and Ted, he works through the steps to create his Quit Stalling list and on top he’s written, find a Dad Group. Weeks back Mike came across the National At-Home Dad Network and hesitated on reaching out. Mike goes to the site and makes that first click, that first connection.
So, hang in there and before long you’ll be on your way, just like Anna, Ted and Mike! You’re worth it and it’s Time!
Would love to hear your thoughts,
most especially if you think it can help others!
Take what flows for you and let the rest float by.