A few weeks back, my friend Graham Edwards wrote a blog about how to get things done. We decided to take things a little further and do a blog series about it. As I read Graham’s blog post it occurred to me that one of the things that keeps us stuck is not being able to figure out the best course of action. It is with that dilemma in mind that I write this post.
Graham mentioned in his post that three things need to take place in order to get things done.
- Propose what you want to do
- Debate what you want to do and make a decision on how to proceed
- Execute on what you want to get done, and do it.
The problem is, sometimes we reach a point in our lives when we just don’t know where to begin or how to identify what we want to do. I call that being stuck. Here’s my take on being stuck and how to work your way out of it.
Too much change is counterproductive.
Timing is everything when it comes to decision making. Too much change at once can be counter-productive.
I am reminded of a client who spoke to me about his inability to make decisions after his marriage broke up. Five years had passed, but all he wanted was for everything to stay the same. After we dug a little deeper, I discovered that his need to hold onto sameness came from the drastic changes that occurred in his life while he was trying to adjust to single life. Shortly after his separation, his father died, his teenage daughter got pregnant, he lost his job and one of his siblings ended up with cancer. That’s a lot of emotional turmoil to handle in a short period of time. He felt like he should be advancing his career and trying to make something of himself, but he couldn’t even make basic decisions because life was just too overwhelming. A part of him wanted everything to stay the same, but he also recognized he was wasting his life and that it was time to take control of things.
The best way to get unstuck is to take up one healthy activity that you can perform consistently.
As we got into why he felt he should be doing more with his career, it was really only because he felt like a loser doing the job he was doing. I should explain that after he lost his job, he took a more menial job because he felt the need to do something less demanding. He didn’t want challenge, but also felt that settling for less was causing others to judge him as a loser (particularly women). Since we determined that he still wasn’t ready to take on the pressure of resuming his old career, we looked at what might be a single small thing he could do to start building the momentum of change in his life. The small thing, we determined, was just to change his morning habit of eating breakfast in his car on the way to work. My client decided that he would start getting up a little earlier and have his coffee and breakfast at home. Gradually we added things like reading self-improvement books for half an hour every day and replacing his beer habit with walks and healthier habits. The best way to get unstuck is to take up one healthy activity that you can perform consistently. For my client, beginning the process by having breakfast at home in the morning set the tone for his day and began to change his whole mindset. Changing his mindset helped move him toward doing more things that were good for him and ultimately making decisions that served his own desires, rather than the desires of others.
Making a decision is still better than never making a decision.
People who are afraid of being wrong, often hesitate to make decisions or will only make a decision if they are certain the outcome will be good. Doubt is the enemy of decisiveness.
There are times in life when you simply have to make a decision and stick with it because doing nothing is worse. For example, if you are caught in the middle of an intersection when the light changes, what do you do? You just go ahead, don’t you? Not moving means you’ll get creamed by another vehicle. Backing up means you’ll hit someone behind you or cause an even bigger accident. Sometimes, you just have to put your foot on the gas and go in the direction you’re headed. Decisions are rarely finite. People who are afraid to be wrong should always remember that mistakes teach us what we need to know. Besides, we usually have the ability to make different decisions at any time. If running the light causes you to go down the wrong street, you can always turn your car around and take a different route. Sometimes you just have to embrace the adventure.
Choosing to make the best of your circumstances, is a great way to make sure you are successful.
Life is always about decisions, whether you want to make them or not. Even not making a decision can be considered a decision.
Usually, though, if you want things to change, you have to be willing to take noticeable action and embrace change, warts and all. I learned a long time ago that not having all the answers in advance is actually okay. The best gift you can give yourself is deciding to make the best of your circumstances, no matter what. I tend to look at change and turmoil as something that eventually passes and leads to something better. If you look at your own life, things usually work out okay for you, don’t they? I find that if you don’t expect disaster, then you will actually escape it. Worrying about things that might happen is ridiculous. If you choose to handle what is in front of you, you can find solutions. Worrying about what might go wrong and stagnating because of it is a great way to waste your life.
Do what makes your heart sing.
When you feel pure joy when you are doing something, that is your inner guidance system telling you that you are in the right place.
So, how do you ever really know what action is right for you? The old saying, “if it feels good, do it,” should be your mantra. The activities that really make your heart sing are always the right thing to do. When you feel pure joy when you are doing something, that is your inner guidance system telling you that you are in the right place. The same thing goes for people. If the person you are with makes your heart sing, then that person is someone you should be spending time with. If you hate your job, then do something else. If your friend sucks the life out of you, distance yourself from that person. When people tell you to follow your heart, that feeling of complete joy, i.e., the singing of the heart, is the feeling you should have. Anything less is not following your heart. Sticking with activities that leave you feeling neutral or negative will only bring you mediocrity and misery. You cannot live an exceptional life by choosing what is safe, same, and mediocre.
Do what scares you a little
People who are stuck, are often stuck because they are afraid of the consequences of a wrong decision. Getting unstuck often means having to do what is counter-intuitive. It means you have to embrace a willingness to be condemned by others for being selfish, stupid, stubborn, or whatever. It means you have to be willing to never settle for less than what you want; not even temporarily. I know. It takes guts. In fact, it takes massive cohunes to be everything you want to be, but ultimately, that’s what drives change. It is how you get things done.