If we see things in our life that we want to change, then what is it that is holding us back from doing it? Why don’t we just take the actions that will produce the desired changes? Questions like that can sure give birth to a huge list of excuses, can’t they?
If someone says to us, why haven’t you lost the weight, or read those books, or made more money, or learned to control your temper? We can easily defend ourselves with a long list of reasons why we haven’t taken those actions, and each reason will probably sound perfectly logical. But why do we feel the need to make excuses for our behavior?
Why we choose justification over actions
Justifying ourselves is something we do for the benefit of others and for ourselves. Why? So we can feel okay about avoiding the actions that would have helped us get where we want to be. If we feel guilty or embarrassed about the actions we avoided, we will find a way to justify are choice.
Making changes comes with a whole assortment of emotional issues that most of us would rather not deal with. It means that we would have to disrupt our routine. It also means that some sort specific actions (effort) will probably be required. If we already have too much to do, and more than enough to think about, the last thing we want is to have one more demand put on us.
Can you relate to feeling that way?
Feeling overwhelmed means that we want to dial things down and restore some balance. The one thing we don’t want to do is to take on another project. And yet…
We still feel that inner desire to make improvements. We know that life could be better on so many levels, and that is what we truly want. So where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us wanting to change, and holding ourselves back at the same time. This dilemma actually adds to our discomfort because it creates internal conflict and disharmony.
Let’s look at three things that can stop us from taking the actions required to make positive changes in our life, and then we will consider three ways to deal with the situation.
1) Complacency. The truth is that complacency has many faces and all of them create barriers to the actions needed to make progress. Whether it’s laziness, lack of interest, lack of motivation, inability to stick with it, procrastination, indecision, or excuses, they all add up to the same thing. Nothing changes because in our mind, the changes we desire are not yet important enough to move us to take the necessary actions.
The other possibility is that we may be waiting for some kind of miracle. Perhaps thinking that our lives will change when we win the lottery, or when someone comes along and does all the work for us.
2) Fear. Fear also has many faces. It could be fear of failure, fear of change, fear of commitment, or even fear of success. Fear is the most powerful reason there is to move away from something. When we harbor fear, we will do almost anything to avoid the situation associated with that fear. It really doesn’t matter what kind of fear it is, if we have linked taking certain actions to fear, and inaction to security and comfort, we will not act.
The power of fear increases with proximity. For example, with fear of success, the closer we get to actually succeeding the more fear influences our decisions and actions. All limiting beliefs are based on fear in one form or another.
3) Confusion. In this age of information overload confusion is an ever increasing problem. Too much information is just as paralyzing as a lack of information. If you want to lose some weight for example, what do you need to do?
You will probably start by checking out all the various weight loss programs. And what will you find? You will find that there are too many experts, with too many ideas, and they all sound very convincing. The trouble is they have so many conflicting opinions that you can’t figure out who to listen to or who to trust. The more you check into it, the worse it gets. Information overload can put you in a holding pattern even when you are feeling motivated and ready to take the actions needed to get results.
It’s a modern day paradox. We have almost unlimited access to information on any topic, but sorting through it all can leave us more confused and frustrated than we were before we started.
Now the question is, what to do about it?
If we are stuck in the dilemma of wanting to make changes and feeling unable to do so, there are really only three alternatives. Let’s consider them one at a time.
1) No actions taken. The first way of dealing with this dilemma is to do nothing at all, and just live with the situation and the associated frustration. This is the choice most people make. Life seems overwhelming enough, and the thought of adding to it is just not acceptable. Many who find themselves in this category will simply make themselves a strong drink at the end of the day, turn on the TV, and attempt to take a nightly vacation from life. Even though many have chosen this approach, I think there are much better options.
2) Roll back. The second way of dealing with the situation is to simply abandon your desire to change, and choose to just settle. For most people who make this choice the internal dialog might be, “this is my life and there’s nothing I can do about it.” Some would call this giving up, I call it acceptance.
There is nothing wrong with acceptance. In fact it can put you in a very powerful place. It eliminates the desire for more, and finds pleasure in the present reality. If you can let go of wanting to be more than you currently are, and find inner harmony in doing so, then this is the way to go.
In fact, combining acceptance with simplifying your life even further, is an extremely effective course. It can quickly make your life feel much less stressful, and much more rewarding at the same time. There is a lot of wisdom in the old adage, less is more.
3) Go for it. The third way applies to those who are compelled to become the best they can possibly be in every area of life, and nothing else will do. For those of us who feel this way, and I include myself in this group, we need a two sided approach to help us avoid getting stuck in a perpetual holding pattern.
We need to simplify our lives and let go of nonessential activities, so that we can create room for personal development pursuits. Adding to an overcrowded schedule will not work and you probably already know that from experience. Even the so called overachievers have limits that must be acknowledged.
So the first step is to figure out what to let go of. Don’t say you can’t let go of anything. Holding on to everything will rob you of the ability to take the actions you need to take. If you want to ramp up the quality of your life you need to clear some room in your schedule, preferably an hour or two per day.
Next, you need to adopt a no-nonsense, step-by-step plan for making the changes you want to make. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, pick one approach and one set of actions, and stick to it. I don’t care if there are 10 choices that all sound really good, pick one and only one, and take the actions needed to follow through.
Don’t expect overnight miracles. Whatever the nature of your pursuit, give it 30 days of consistent effort. Keep taking the actions you’ve decided on and don’t deviate from your chosen approach. Keep your actions consistent with your goals and don’t make excuses. If you’ve chosen wisely, your actions will eventually produce results, but you need to give it time.
Choose to take the actions needed to get results!
OK, now it’s time for you to figure out what it is that’s holding you back and what you plan to do about it. Let me know what you think and what course of action you have decided on. The lines are open!
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