You’ve done so much hard work. You’ve spent a few weeks determining what your values and purpose are. You have a compelling vision for your future and a mission that will get you there. You’ve got a plan of action. You’ve created systems that will lead you to achieving your goals.
You’re excited. You’re ready.
And then nothing happens.
Well my friend, what you’ve got going on is a good old forest/trees situation. Sometimes we can be so focused on the nitty-gritty granular aspects of achieving what we want in life, we forget to look at the big picture. Even with the best of intentions, we may still have limiting patterns of belief and behaviour that are hindering our progress. And to see them, we have to take a big step back, and ask ourselves:
If I’m to achieve my goals:
What in my life must grow?
And what in my life must go?
Let's look at an example from my life:
I’ve been fascinated by stuckness for the past few years, so back in July 2017, I launched The Unstuck Project. My goal was to interview 100 people about their experience with stuckness and then write a book about my discoveries. I completed the interviews last month and constructed an outline for what will surely be a terrific and informative book.
I was excited. I was ready.
And then nothing happened.
Well, it seems I was experiencing what writer Steven Pressfield calls “The Resistance”. He describes it this way:
“Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, and prevent us from doing our work.”
Yup. That about sums up what I was feeling. So I distracted myself for a little while, taking on new projects, worrying about things that are beyond my control, and placing my focus anywhere and everywhere except where it needed to be.
I allowed myself to behave in this unproductive way for a week or so. But I knew I couldn’t let it continue. The problem (or advantage) with being a coach is that you recognize when you’re playing self-defeating games. You’ve seen it before, in yourself and in clients. I knew I had to break out of my destructive pattern. The nice thing (also advantage) about being a coach is you have access to tools. And I reached for an old favourite: What must grow and What must go.
I took a few days to ponder, and here’s what I discovered.
What must grow?
My willingness to be vulnerable. I want my readers to really connect with what I’m writing. And that means I must write it from my heart. It won’t resonate otherwise. And what’s the point of writing a book that doesn’t help anyone? So I have to remember that vulnerability is the key to connection and results.
My willingness to fail. It’s entirely possible that I’ll spend the next few months putting my heart into a book that no one will want to read. I have to be willing to do it anyway. And that begins by focusing on my readers, rather than myself.
My willingness to struggle. Book writing is hard. It will take a lot out of me. I know this because I’ve written two novels in the past. Somehow, my first attempt at non-fiction seems even more difficult than fiction. I think it’s because in the pretend world of fiction, the author is in charge of everything. If I don’t like a situation, I can change it. If I don’t like a character, I can get rid of them. In non-fiction, I have to worry about things like facts and accuracy! So I have to be content with the slog. And take care of myself as I'm slogging.
What must go?
Clickity, click, click, clicking. I don’t know about you, but my favourite way to distract myself is to click over to the internet for a few moments. What’s going on on Twitter? Does ModCloth have any new dresses I might like? How’s my 3rd cousin’s Greek vacation going and are there pictures of it on Instagram? What’s the weather forecast for the weekend? How old is Sia? To get a grip on my clicking, I’ve implemented a schedule for clicking. Morning, lunch, mid-afternoon and after dinner and that’s it.
Perfectionism. The book won’t be perfect. There will be grammar mistakes and typos and other issues. And that’s okay. One of the joys of self-publishing is the Print on Demand model. If there’re mistakes, I can fix them any time. And besides, no book is perfect. That's just the way things are.
The need to know what will happen tomorrow. This is a big one! Who wouldn’t like to embark on a new project knowing exactly how it will turn out in the end? But of course, this is impossible, and linked to the need for certainty and the ancient brain, which is wired for survival rather than truth. The only way to combat this pattern is to bring yourself into the present moment as often as possible. And I’m doing that with a 10-minute meditation, twice a day. It’s a slow process, but bit by bit, I feel myself letting go of the need to know.
Now. Think about where you’re stuck in your life. Then take a day or two to contemplate.
What must grow? And what must go? And what are you going to do about it?