I frequently work with clients who believe they need to have things all figured out before they can move forward in the direction of their goals and dreams. The concept of having all the answers as a necessity for action is a paralyzing myth.
Inaction, or misguided action, shows up in all sorts of ways as a mechanism of fear, or defense. Staying where we are, even if it’s miserable and unfulfilling, seems safer to us than stepping outside of our comfort zone and into unfamiliar action. Let’s look at some of the ways that this survival mechanism presents itself in our lives.
- Excuses or justifications. This is a powerful form of inaction in which we seek, or even create, reasons why we are not taking action to reach our goals. This can be anything from time, energy, money or any other resource constraint. It can also come from an emotional constraint such as feelings of powerlessness, victimization or some residual trauma of a life event. Whatever the source, it’s important to get that there is no circumstance that has the actual power to stop you from being in action. It may feel that way, but I promise that feeling is merely your defense mechanism in action, rather than you.
- Procrastination. This is such an insidious form of inaction. You’re tired, busy, and don’t feel like doing it. Seems valid, but you just keep telling yourself the same story to avoid taking action. There will never be a perfect time to take action. It is critical to understand that the voice of procrastination inside your head is not actually yours. Again, it’s that mechanism working to keep you stuck in that safe space, however unpleasant it may be. When you recognize that you’re being dictated by a malicious machine inside your head, you can take an empowering stance to ignore it and take that action instead.
- Martyrdom. By doing things for others, filling our schedules with volunteer work or investing too much of our energy into other people’s problems, we feel validated in our noble sacrifice. Yet this too can be a way in which we avoid being responsible for our own lives. We all take pleasure in helping others and it’s an important role for a healthy society, but be mindful of how this can show up as a misguided action, pulling your energy away from your personal goals.
Once you identify these methods of inaction in your own life, you can begin to operate outside of them. Here are a few tips to help you step into action powerfully.
- Acknowledge the ways in which inaction is showing up in your life. Share them with others to keep yourself accountable to a new way of being in action.
- Make a list of what needs done and get to work. Commit to 2-3 things daily. It helps to create a reward system for yourself. If you complete your list, allow yourself an hours worth of tv time or a manicure!
- Break it down. If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of change, and it seems impossible, break it down into small daily actionables. What is one thing you can do each day to get you closer to where you want to be? Do that.
- Stop using the word “but.” Using the word “but” comes with an inherent limitation. Instead, replace it with “and.” Using the word “and” distinguishes one statement from another, creating a space for possibility and power.
At the end of the day, no matter your circumstance, taking action is the only way to create change.