It can happen to anyone, even the most seasoned entrepreneurs, and it most often comes when you start pushing into new territory for yourself or your business. When you choose take your work to the next level, to stretch yourself and grow, you have to move out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. That can be scary territory. The part of you that holds that fear can be extremely powerful and stop you dead in your tracks. It goes by the name of Resistance.
On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.
– Steven Pressfield, Do The Work
Luckily, it is possible to break through and I’m going to help you do just that. As I mentioned in my last post, I am no stranger to being stuck. With a particularly well rooted sense of inertia, getting to the point of finally getting unstuck and making progress has felt like a long and winding road for me. Your experience may be different; we all have our own journey, our own gremlins to wrestle with and our own timing. However long it takes you is not important. What is important is that you take the first step. Here we go.
What worked for me were actually several things. At times I used them together, at times alone. Find what works for you. You can do this.
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1. Commit, Commit, Commit
I know this sounds obvious, but there’s no getting around it. You’ve got to really want to move forward. The point of taking action is often that tipping of the scales when your frustration of not moving forward outweighs your resistance. You’ve got to be truly willing to do what it takes to break through even when it gets tough. You are destined for wonderful things. The world is waiting for what you alone have to offer! Don’t keep it waiting. Make the decision. Give yourself this gift.
How to take action: Get a piece of paper and a pen. Write down what life will look like in 1 year if you stay stuck. How about in 5 years? Imagine it fully, see it, take time to note details. What are you doing? Where are you? Who are you with? What has happened and what hasn’t? How do you feel?
Under that write down what your life will look like in 1 year if you break through. What will life look like in 5 years? Imagine it, see it, take a moment to note details. What are you doing? Where are you? Who is with you? What has happened and what hasn’t? How do you feel?
Post the second scenario – the Breakthrough scenario – where you can see it every single day and while you are working. Every morning read through it and imagine it. You can do this. You will break through.
2. Oh Baby, You Are SO Busted
You have the best of intentions, but somehow the Big Scary Thing keeps not getting done. But you didn’t tell anyone, so, hey, waiting one more day won’t hurt, right? Yeah. Right.
Sweetums…it’s time for some tough love.
Do yourself a favor and enlist an accountability partner. Nothing gets us moving like the threat of humiliation, am I right? When you put something off but no one else witnesses your procrastination, it can conveniently get swept under the rug.
An accountability partner will call you out and keep you honest. They’ll help you get to the bottom of why you’re not acting on your promise and keep at you until you honor your commitment. No excuses. You initially make a commitment to them but really the commitment is to yourself. Ah, and the fun part? You get to do the same for them.
How to take action: Partner with a friend or colleague who 1) truly wants you to succeed 2) has your best interests at heart and, most importantly 3) is capable of calling you out on your shite while still being supportive. When you work with someone who also has a goal they’ve been working on, you help each other move forward.
You each decide on your goal. What is the thing you have been putting off and when are you going to have it done? If it is a big goal, break it down into smaller parts and set completion dates for each step.
Give your accountability partner the specifics of your goal(s) and deadline(s) and exactly when you are going to show them what you’ve completed and they tell you theirs. If they don’t hear from you (and you, them) by the appointed date or time, they are to contact you and hound you until you give ’em the goods. They are not to take any bollucks from you about how the dog chewed up the first chapter of your novel or how a dinosaur trampled your power lines so you had no internet.
They are also to be supportive and do what they can to help you move through the hard stuff. You return the favor, and the great part? You get to celebrate each others’ successes as well!
3. The Bait and Switch
Our minds can be tricky at times, and that part of us that is hesitant to move forward into change can be quite clever indeed. Like dealing with a willful toddler, sometimes rather than go head to head with the resistance, distraction is your best weapon. If you come to a screeching halt every time you sit down to finish that report, work on that presentation or make that call (or whatever is blocking you), a little friendly Bait and Switch may be just the thing to get some forward motion. Coming at the challenge from an entirely different angle (I’m just going to write about my cat…la la la….oh look! A blog post!) can open up the gates and help you bypass whatever roadblock you are struggling with.
Sometimes you just have to trick yourself into action.
How to take action: Choose something fun and easy to do in the same (or similar) arena as the thing you are struggling with. For example, let’s say you are an illustrator with a daunting commission you keep avoiding. Shift gears for a while and take time to create something completely different that is light and fun for you. Maybe it’s a different medium, new subject matter, or a gift for someone special. Let yourself get lost in it and approach it like a child. Just be free with it. It’s good to color outside the proverbial lines here.
While you are still in a heightened, creative, fun mode, (do not wait until you are all done) just casually pick up your commissioned project and play with it for 10 minutes. Set a timer. You can stop after 10 minutes if you like, but if you feel inspired, continue on as long as you like. If you seize up again, then try the process again. The aim is to shift the energy, the vibe around what you’re doing. Invite play, make it a game and go easy on yourself. Don’t forget to celebrate even the tiniest wins!
4. Get Regular
A lack of structure can be a sneaky saboteur, especially if you are working from home or independently of a team. Without witnesses we can be tempted to think missing a day or a deadline will do no harm. Well, except to yourself.
Making one’s own schedule can give us the freedom we crave, but knowing when to underline that with some constructive structure and productive routines helps us be more productive and move us toward our big goals. If you happen to be extremely artistic and creative, go-with-the-flow type of person, this can be a particular challenge. Free spirits often don’t like to be reined in and so they resist. However, well-chosen routine tasks sprinkled on in a way that works for you can help you see more of your goals to full fruition.
How to take action:
Sit down with a calendar or day planner. Choose a slot of time that you will commit to on a regular basis (Hello, accountability partner??). This can be an hour once a week, 15 minutes every day or whatever pace makes the best sense for what you’re trying to accomplish. Just make sure it pushes the edge of your comfort zone ever so gently. If it’s too easy you’ll likely slack off, if it’s too hard you won’t do it. Make it a priority in your schedule. Often placing it early in your day helps it not get bumped by other things that come up.
Tip: Set a timer for 25 minutes at a time, taking a 5 minute break in between. Doing this totally shifted my ability to focus better and complete tasks.
5. The Ass-Kicking
Let’s face it. At times we do our best work with someone at our back and pushing all our buttons. No messing around. The pressure is on. We may complain, whimper, yell and cry. Eventually we turn around and look back once we’ve made it to the other side, surprised to find we produced something exceptional. Like carbon, we can transform when the heat is on and we are willing to jump right into the fire.
Remember, there is no one to compete with, save yourself. No comparing. Stay true to yourself and your originality. Bring your best, unique self to what you create every day.
How to take action:
Read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art (and Do The Work). Like a wise and tough coach, these books get right to the point and call you out on your crap without pussy-footing around. He’s been there and broken through to the other side. Listen to this guy. He knows.
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How have you dealt with feeling stuck or overcoming fear? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts and what has (and hasn’t) worked for you in the comments below.
Thanks for hanging out and here’s to doing your amazing work!