This is the second part of “Going for Action and Application,” as part of the post series that is the “4 Ways to Change Your Life.” Here, we will tackle obstacles to us taking action, and committing to change.
Sure, taking action sounds so simple to do, and I can just start with a very simple step? So what’s the problem?
I’ve been there. And even if you know it, it can be hard to make that direct connection to the body. I literally felt my body resisting me, and my mind coming up with every imaginable excuse to NOT do that single push-up.
That’s what happens to us when we are in a state of distress and hopelessness: we shut down, cut-off and just stop. Fight it. Fight those feelings of wanting to stay stagnant. Move. Don’t give in to the dark side.
Major Symptoms of the Dark Side
Here are several of the things we do, or say to ourselves when things get too tough or painful for us, and we want to avoid taking action. These are symptoms of a deeper cause: fear.
Procrastination. I had already prepared my resume then. All I had to do was pass it. Through Email, nonetheless, and yet I waited and waited and couldn’t bring myself to press send. I remember writing an article, watching videos, and letting around 2 days go by before I even mustered up the courage to press send. What happened?
In our head, we might be thinking:
“I’ll get it done right after this. One more page / song / minute / hour / God-knows-what?”
But what’s really going on under that? Have you ever stayed silent enough to listen to yourself? What are you really telling yourself?
“Can I really do this? Someone else has done it before, so why will others want to buy from me? Can what I do measure up to what others have done? I’ll look like a fool! I’m not so sure about this.”
Procrastination is a sign that we aren’t too sure of what we’re about to do, and that our mind wants to keep on thinking things through. Sadly, this does not always equate to a better result. More often than not, this just leads to self-doubt, paralysis, and wasted time, time that could have been used to start changing your life. It’s coming from fear – whatever it is that you fear or are afraid of. Listen, very closely. It’s there.
Along with these thoughts and beliefs, come another very close sibling to procrastination:
Perfectionism. I remember the first week that I started regularly doing push-ups. There were times when I’d stare at the floor, my mind and body battling it out. I wanted to stop. I wanted to quit. “This is stupid! I’ll never be able to do push-ups like so and so. Why bother?”
Or the time when I was invited to speak, and though I wanted to take it, I literally thought my way into believing that there were other speakers better than me, and I won’t be able to measure up to them, so I won’t even try. I’ll feel safer and I won’t make a mistake.
There are times when we don’t even try because we feel we won’t ever measure up. That “I can’t do it. Ever.” It feels comfortable to just stay here where I am safe, and won’t make a mistake. I don’t ever want to make a mistake. Awfully enough, that sort of means you don’t ever want to grow, or take the opportunities that life will present you.
It’s great that we want to be the best at what we do, but that doesn’t mean perfect. Even people at the top of their game make mistakes. It’s normal. It just doesn’t feel normal because our pride, our self-image, our beliefs won’t allow us to make mistakes and look like a fool. Because of the shame, embarrassment, and loss that comes with making mistakes.
“It’s not for me,” and its cousin “I’m not that kind of person.” From the beginning, this is a huge handicap for us. For the longest time, I believed that I was no athlete, that I wouldn’t be able to build a strong body, and all I was good for was reading, talking, all of the non-physical stuff. That blocked me from taking little steps at the start, such as exercise, because I believed that I wasn’t a person that was physically blessed.
Beliefs shape our identity, and what we believe influences who we are and how we act and relate with our environment. So for me to say that I wasn’t an athlete and a physically gifted person, stopped me from doing exercise, from strengthening my body, and basically from doing any physical activity. This made me weaker not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
This is related to the first two, in that my fear of failing created that belief that I could not be strong, and that exercise would have any effect on me.
What do you tell yourself? That you’re not good enough? That you’ll always be poor? That it’s hard to earn money? That you’ll never be able to become a _____?
If you want to change your life, it’s time to start telling yourself otherwise.
For all these things, fear, or some close sibling or form of fear, is what is stopping us from taking action, and really from changing our lives.
It’s all about how you do it
Taking that first step can be hard. It can be almost impossible. For me, it was. I had built up so many obstacles and lies within myself that I had to overcome, do away with, or just simply power through. So here are some tips on how to approach taking the small steps that will change your life.
Embrace the Suck. This is a powerful concept that I encountered from the Navy SEALs. These elite military operatives are the ones sent on high-risk, covert missions all over the world. Their job involves a lot of sleepless nights, long and rough hikes, being cold and wet, and that was a very clean and tame description of what it’s like to be a Navy SEAL.
They’re going to be put in uncomfortable situations, dangerous situations, from which it is necessary they endure or power through to finish their mission. Embracing the suck is to tough it out and get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and just get through to doing what you need to do.
And yes, that includes us. Because there will be times when we just plain suck.
So get back in the fight. Go do it, go through it. Small steps at first.
Do it with a mindset of practice. Everyone sucks at the start. Everyone starts from zero, and the only way people get any better is through action, and doing. And not all of that is done under bright lights and showtime. I read somewhere that for every hour of fantastic, mind-blowing, and earth-shaking presentation, is roughly around 40 hours of preparation time and practice. It takes practice to get good. And your practice isn’t necessarily performance, or “good” level, that’s why it’s called practice!
When I first started out learning guitar, I had to practice a lot. Get my fingers used to the feel, the strings, the chords, how to strum, play the strings, and all that. And you know what?
I was terrible, so, so terrible at the start.
But as I continued to practice and to practice, I got better and better at it.
Same with changing your life. We’re all going to suck at the start, and not get the grand results we want right away, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, in the same way your life won’t.
Your life will be built through small step by small step, action after action. So keep practicing.
Babies aren’t born knowing how to walk, they slowly practice their movements, until they get to a point where they are able to walk.
Just keep at it. You’ll walk. Again.
Fail Forward. In essence, this is how babies learn to walk. They will try and fail, try and fail, try and fail, each try getting better than the last one, until they try and succeed. Just admit to yourself that you may never get it right the first few times, and that’s OK. That’s part of learning. Accepting failure is part of learning.
For me, it was so hard to pick myself up after failing. I lost a ton of money, and a lot of my time, and thought that i wouldn’t be able to make money anymore after that gut-wrenching loss. It was hard for me to pick myself back up again,
but only you can change your life.
I sucked at push-ups, couldn’t squat a whole lot, didn’t have a lot of confidence speaking to people, much less promoting myself. I don’t have all the skills, and I’m not an expert.
But I didn’t let that stop me from taking action, and just kept going.
It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to suck at first. It’s ok to not know everything right away, and to slowly learn and get the hang of things. It’s ok to pick yourself back up, and to start again. It’s ok.
Focus on the right now
Focus on the action, the doing, the execution in the now. Right now. That’s the most you can do. You can worry and imagine about the future, or recall and regret the past, but it’s what you do now that will have impact on the life that you want to have.
Plain and simple: It’s the actions and decisions you take now that will impact you future, and live you want.
So don’t get stuck doing the same things. Don’t! It’s insanity to keep on doing to same things and expect different results. For the longest time, I was trapped in that cage. I took online courses, kept on reading, didn’t take invitations to speak, share, or teach, because I felt I wasn’t ready or wasn’t good enough, and just generally stayed in my safe little cocoon.
that didn’t get me anywhere.
I realized what I was doing won’t get me to where I want, and that I had to change what I was doing to have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting on the path towards where I wanted to be.
I started exercising and watching my diet. To hell with my belief that “I’m not an athlete.” That’s not true.
I started writing and sharing, even though I’m no expert, I just started creating and put my work out there.
I took a job after failing in businesses, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet a lot of great people, and learn how the industry I’m in works.
I started being more thankful with what I had, where I was, and for the opportunities to come.
I started to take action, to do something, right now.
And taking action, is what ultimately leads to a changed life. Go for action and application.
In the next post, we’ll discuss what we can learn from the past, how our beliefs shape our actions, what we can do about them, and what does this mean to us right now. Let me know what you think about this article in the comments below, and I’ll see you next post for the continuation of the “4 Ways to Change Your Life.”