I can’t stand it! Too many amazingly talented people whose gifts the world desperately needs are stuck in a debilitating cycle of self-doubt, quitting, then looking for a magic solution. It’s keeping too many of us from getting what we most want. It’s blocking us from creating the satisfaction, impact, and happiness we crave, and the world needs!
It drives me batty. Batty!
And I understand this cycle and know it oh too well. I wasted too many years and too much money doubting myself and looking for someone to tell me what to do.
The cycle goes something like this:
You want so badly to ______ (build your consulting business, write your novel, move your body joyfully, travel, find a new love, make deeper friendships…).
But you have no idea what to do. What’s the right choice? What’s the best choice? Where to start?
Overwhelm creeps in. You feel anxious, at loose ends, with too much info and options flooding in.
You start to believe the stinky thinking that you can’t ______. You tried before and it didn’t work. Your idea is too complicated. You’re too old or don’t know enough. Maybe you lack the discipline. Why bother?
The self-doubt sends you scampering away from taking action, and you either give up or take hit-and-miss flimsy actions that only frustrate you more.
(You may at this point take the job you don’t want that you said you would never take again, say yes to your family and take on more elder care, or sink deeper into shadow comforts – hours on Instagram, Words with Friends or Nextflix – any of which leaves you with no time to pursue what you desire and keeps you feeling safe to boot.)
And then, after weeks or months, or years, of this desire limbo, you get hopeful and excited to try again. Because you are brave and smart, and you want _____ so much. So you buy a bunch of books / get a reading (angel, astrology, psychic) / sign up for a very expensive certification program and generally create a complicated overly ambitious plan…
Only it doesn’t help, at least not for long, and the whole cycle starts all over again.
Until you give up for good. Resign your dreams and desires to the ash heap of never-going-to-happen.
You listen to me. Well, not me but the following ideas which will lead you back to your own wisdom and agency. But these ideas I’m about to share? They are not quick or sexy. But if you stick with them, over time, this cycle will stop grabbing you and keeping you trapped.
Really and truly.
1. Give Yourself a Break
Shame will keep you stuck! Self-blame will keep you running on this hamster wheel of stuck forever — it’s actually a way you are defending yourself from taking action. Self-compassion is not coddling yourself with shadow comforts; it’s soothing your nervous system and speaking to yourself with kindness, “This is hard. This is hard for lots of people. And I believe I can learn and do what I need to do to persevere. I can take one small step now.”
2. Value Not Knowing… Sometimes
Our minds are wired to fear the unknown. The unknown got our ancestors eaten. We aren’t comfortable not-knowing — which includes not knowing if we can do something or handle something — so we have to learn to tolerate the daily uneasiness of uncertainty.
Our minds and bodies look for the easy path. The easy path takes less resources which also kept our ancestors alive. Thinking requires calories. Easy beckons, easy seduces, and the coaching/New Age culture also preaches that “ease” is a sign it’s “meant to be.” Which is a very, very misleading idea that causes a lot of people to quit when they hit their first patch of struggle, failure, or not knowing.
Our education, for the most part, taught us we were successful when we found the right answer. Valuing ambiguity or holding opposites? Process over product? Not so much. But that’s where life lives! That’s where the fun is. Creating, experiencing, growing, experimenting!
And our culture is obsessed with quick miracles results and fixes, and that affects all of us. Follow my program and make millions in essential oils in 2 weeks! Drink my bulletproof coffee and be a million IQ points smarter while losing weight. The world is beaming inflated gilded promises at you, burying in the fine print, “This will take time, a lot of time, and diligent bravery.”
3. Slow Down
Embrace a fierce devotion over time to living a reality-based human-scaled life. This means facing and embracing what you actually have time and energy to do, exploring what you may need to learn to bring your desires to life, and turning away, again and again, from speedy get-it-done-yesterday-be-super-human fantasies.
4. Start – and Stay – Small
Practice separating out your decision-making from your action-taking. When you try to decide what to do at the same time you need to do it, fear has a better chance of seducing you away, back into the cycle. Spend a bit of time listing in writing what you could do to take action, and then nail down what your next small steps will be from that list. Then decide when you will take those steps.
Just like you wouldn’t expect to go from the couch to running a marathon in 2 weeks, you can’t expect yourself to build what you want in a day. Expecting you should be able to or that you are “failing” or “falling behind” because you don’t sends you back into the cycle.
5. Tell Your People
Gather people to cheer you on and to be accountable to. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – a quick text, a walk date once every two weeks but please know: you cannot break this cycle alone. Ask your supportive people to reflect back to you the progress you are making… especially when you feel pulled back into the old doubt/quit/look for the magic solution cycle. This is the moment when the support becomes the real magic.
6. Love the Start… cuz it’s gonna happen a lot
Always begin again and again when you get pulled back into the cycle of self-doubt / quitting / magic solutions or you get sick or your mom breaks her hip or your car craps out and you have to take a freelance gig you dislike that consumes all your free time to buy a new one.
Do not waste your energy thinking these slips or life blips mean you aren’t meant to write your novel or get your side-gig to full time or do your 5K. Instead, see this as the moment to become a success. Because this very moment is what separates out the people who succeed in their desires from the people who don’t. The people who succeed begin again. And again. Without wasting any of their heart’s energy on thinking they are doomed, screwed or worse off than anybody else. Kvetch to your best friend, then put your hand on your heart and get back to it.
7. Break Up and Break Out
I stop following people on social media who trigger my self-defeating habit of comparison. I unsubscribe from blogs that preach “this is THE way” or showcase a life to be especially glamorous or perfect or pouty with lip gloss.
Is there anyone or anything you need to block / delete / stop taking in that triggers you to look for magic solutions, feel less than, or doubt your abilities? It’s not about being a hothouse flower – I believe strongly in being resilient and well-informed about the world – but rather to be on the look-out for where someone or something sends you toward quitting.
8. Not (necessarily) Till Death Do You Part
Nothing is forever. You will have new dreams and desires. And the thing you are pursuing now? It might not be IT. Please regularly check-in with yourself if you still want what you want.
Good Questions to Ask:
- * Do I still want this? (Scary but vital to keep asking. Plus asking helps you feel the sensation of desire and that is motivating!)
- * Have I had enough? (Sometimes the finish line comes faster than we think it will… aka “I did the half-marathon and I’m finished with running for now; I want to try swimming.”)
- * Are my actions moving me forward and helping me experience more of what I want now? (Being busy is not the same as making progress and if you hate the path, is the destination worth it?)
9. Think Impact
Dedicate your efforts to something bigger than yourself to help yourself stay motivated and connected to what we all want as humans: to have an impact, to live a meaningful story.
“I want to build a consulting business so I can give money to my niece for school” keeps you going when you want to quit. “I want to move my body joyfully so I can play with my grandkids” can get you to the gym at 6 am.
- * Forgo sexy, perfect, and one size fits all solutions.
- * Be fiercely devoted to taking small measurable steps that you decide.
- * Don’t go it alone.
- * Celebrate along the way. A lot.
- * Be kind to yourself when you always begin again.
- * Keep checking in: do I still want this? Am I making progress? Does it feel good?
- * Repeat with love!
I so want you to create what you most desire. Again and again, with glee. I so know you can, no matter what.
May it be so.