When it comes to moving closer to goals, by actually taking action, many people can’t even seem to get started. They come up with lots of excuses why they shouldn’t act. For example if you have a goal of becoming a successful business owner, or entrepreneur, you might say to yourself via your inner dialogue…
Justifications for maintaining the current status quo
- It’s less risky to just keep doing what I am currently doing (not taking action)
- I’m too busy with my current work and family schedule, I don’t really have the time to devote to pursue my goal(s). Working evenings will cut into my time with family an friends.
Possible negative consequences of taking action
- It will take time, skills that I may not have
- I could fail (so won’t take the risk)
- I want to put myself in a situation where I’m being judged by others
- People might think I’m fake, a fraud
- I don’t know or might not know how to do it (what needs doing)
- My idea isn’t good enough, or might not be good enough
- I could waste lots of time, effort, money investing in something that just doesn’t work out, so why even bother
- Success will mean working all hours and will have no time for family
- I’m scared of pushing myself and doing things outside my comfort zone, because it’s uncomfortable
- I don’t like asking people for help, and I might have to do
- I don’t like asking people to buy from me, I just can’t sell
- I might lose all my money
- I might get ripped off by scam artist who takes advantage of my naivety
- Talking professionally to people (in case they think I’m a fake)
- I might be promising something I can’t deliver
- I might ruining my reputation, when it’s very important to me
- I don’t like giving presentations, pitching, speaking in front of customers, audience and might find I have to at some point
- I don’t like the idea of putting myself out there and feeling vulnerable
- I don’t like to rely /depend on other people, in case I get let down
If you’re trying to lose weight or get fit you might say to yourself…
Justifications for maintaining the current status quo
- I love eating tasty fatty foods – they taste so good. I always have good intentions but when I’m hungry, I just give in
- I want to watch TV rather than going out and exercising in the cold/at the gym
Possible negative consequences of taking action
- Healthy food doesn’t taste as good as fatty food
- Exercise is too hard, I don’t enjoy it, and can’t deal with the discomfort and pain
Issues with self esteem or even some degree of self loathing, can sometimes result in people finding comfort in binge eating, which further fuels self loathing and lowers self esteem. In such circumstances you should try to deal with the underlying root issues, as the eating is a manifestation of these, rather than the root cause.
Why you come up with excuses
This list of excuses, is your mind trying to rationalise the decision not to take action. On one hand you feel you should be doing something in pursuit of your goals, after all everyone says you should have goals, don’t they? On the other hand part of you fears taking the risk.
When you contemplate moving from your comfort zone, your current situation, and the routines and habits that you have, and maybe have had for some time, to something that feels new, you will naturally feel some level of fear.
You are hardwired, through evolution, to resist putting yourself in dangerous situations, and change is perceived as being potentially bad. Change equals uncertainty and uncertainty could result in risk and possible danger. Risk and danger is considered bad because your sense of self (who you see yourself to be) could be devalued in some way, and your survival instincts will do its level best to ensure this doesn’t happen.
All action is driven by the need to avoid pain and being destroyed, and all your actions are built on this one need. You continually strive for more, because being more means you are further away from being nothing. The more you have, the more you are. So you’re not a freak because you’re not taking action, you’re trapped by your fear of change, uncertainty, risk, danger, failure, you might even be fearful of success, or at least the consequences of success (no time to spend with friends and family, responsibility etc).
Moving beyond fear
So now we know why we aren’t taking action, we can move on to working out a strategy for overcome these limiting thoughts and beliefs.
The first thing to consider is how real these perceived dangers are and how seriously are they likely to impact you, should they materialise.
Without knowing your personal situation in more detail, it is difficult to give a specific answer, but general fears can be looked upon in the following ways:
Being judged by others
With regards to being judged by others, if you had more self confidence or self esteem, other peoples’ opinions would matter much less to you. Sure, we all like to be liked, but being dependant on other peoples’ opinions, is not healthy. You will tend to make up stories about how and why this and that person doesn’t like you, which is usually nothing more than a fictional story of your own invention and more about your own judgements of yourself, rather than theirs.
If another person doesn’t like you, and you know this for sure, because they have actually told you so, and for XYZ reasons then at least you know, rather than suspect. You can either try to adjust your behaviour, if you agree that it is unacceptable, or ignore their views, if you disagree. After all they might be accusing you of behaving unacceptably when they are the ones with the insecurities and esteem issues. Remember they are being driven by the same insecurities and fears that you are, and putting yourself in their shoes through empathy, allows you to realise this. They might be lashing out because of their own pain, rather than it being you.
I believe if you are truly joyous and genuinely happy and aligned inside, you have no reason to attack or belittle another person. Anger, frustration, fear and all negative emotions come from insecurities and pain within you, which is already there, but just being aroused by the situation you’re reacting to. Check out my wellbeing guide for more information, particularly the equation of emotion part which details how negative emotions are created.
Not good enough
If you believe you’re not good enough or not up-to-the-job. Try to understand where these thoughts are coming from. Again your self-preservation instincts will try to protect you from risky situations, but you can move beyond this by identifying your weaknesses and educating yourself into mastering them.
Low self esteem and lack of belief in yourself can be embedded deep into your psyche from early childhood, when you were very impressionable and filtered your experiences less. If your environment at an early age was not supportive, maybe you were continually told you were not good enough, or were not given enough love from one or more of your parents, whom you craved love from. Or you were discouraged to take risks or do things outside the norm, being told not to do something “for your own safety”, or told to fit in and not stand out, these fears and insecurities might still be lingering in the background of your mind, influencing your present decision making and possibly sabotaging your goals. None of these things can be considered as “truths”, they were opinions and actions from people who themselves were in some degree of pain, and may well have been just passing on their own insecurities and fears through their actions and words.
You can be good enough if you’re willing to make the effort and put in the work. If you don’t want to make the effort then you’re probably not going to get far, for that reason. Check out my work ethic article for more.
Now a caveat. Talent has a part to play in success, particularly when you’re competing with others to get to the top. You should look to play to your strengths, and you will have strengths as well as weaknesses. We all have weaknesses so don’t feel bad about them. I would love to be a singer, unfortunately I can’t hold a tune, I’m terrible, really. I could probably improve with training and purposeful practice, but I would never be able to go beyond my physical limitations. I might, with lots of practice, get good enough to perform at a certain level but I would never be at the top of the tree. Such limitations are true of some activities, singing, I would say is one, some kinds of sports that rely on certain physical characteristics and prowess, maybe another. But there are many more things that don’t have such limitations, you can practice and practice and become better, and be as good as you want to be. Often hard work trumps talent, when talent doesn’t work. Check out my article on self awareness, because this is key to identifying your strengths and weaknesses.
You might have an inner conflict of wanting to be successful, while at the same time fearing the consequences of success, like having no time for friends and family or relying on other people or being ripped off, or having to shoulder responsibility for yourself and others.
The best thing to do is examine these conflicts and resolve them. If you don’t want to work all hours and miss time with family and friends, then find a lifestyle business that doesn’t depend on your presence so much. Many large businesses have managers operating the business on behalf of the owners, so scale could work in your favour after the initial building phase. Some businesses, such as online businesses can be worked on around family time, or be outsourced/delegated to someone else. If you first, identify the conflict and confront it, you can then work out a solution to move beyond it. If you can’t resolve it, maybe you should drop that particular goal and find a different one that best suits who you are. It’s really no good trying to put a square brick into a round hole (check out my article on self awareness).
Wanting one thing (your goal), but also wanting something that is counter-productive to that goal, is obviously problematic. For example if you want to lose weight, be lean, get fit, but can’t resist eating fatty foods such as chocs, snacks, sweets, burgers and the like, you have a conflict of wants. You might have good intentions, but when the temptation is there, for example having chocs in the cupboard, you find it almost impossible to resist, without having a huge amount of self control and willpower.
Another example: If you want to get an assignment done, but can’t resist watching your favourite sports team playing, or can’t face pulling yourself away from the TV, then you have a a conflict of wants.
One solution is to avoid putting yourself in situations that provide temptations or distractions. If you’ve no chocolates in the cupboard, you can’t eat them. If there’s no TV, you can’t watch it. It all comes down to deciding your priorities.
Personally I can work on my laptop, while sat in front of the TV and remain 100% focused on what I’m doing. This means I don’t feel I’m having to lock myself away or miss out on anything. It encourages me to work more frequently and intensely, and really, the TV, even with the sound on low, doesn’t distract me. I find I’m more productive working that way. Find what works best for you.
Giving yourself a reason to take action
Life is all about making choices. You will take the action that drives you most. You will take the action that NEEDS to be done or else…., or that you really WANT to do. Check out my article about getting into a WANT or NEED state of motivation.
Give yourself a compelling reason to take action and you’re more likely to take it. Motivation has many elements, check out my motivational guide here.