Excuses

Whether we admit it or not, we all make excuses from time to time. Lately, I have been seeing so many more excuses founded in the pandemic. It’s easy to blame the pandemic for our weight gain, bad habits, and not taking action. It’s easy to buy into these statements and carry them with us as our justifications for not taking action. But the pandemic is not to blame for your inaction. None of your excuses are factual. They are simply opinions; opinions that are keeping you from living the life you really want.

I’m waiting for the pandemic to be over before I get back into working out, it’s hard to eat healthy because I don’t want to go to the store too often, networking is too hard when everyone is working remotely, it’s just not a good time to look for a new job, no one is hiring right now

We provide ourselves all these reasons why we aren’t acting but as we chip away at each of these excuses, what we often find is that it has nothing to do with those reasons–we just don’t want to do the hard things sometimes.

Admittedly, there is certainly some shade of truth in these beliefs that makes these excuses appealing. Things ARE different. Our approach to certain things is going to have to be different.

But since when does different necessarily mean harder?

Since when we did we decide that different meant stop?

Before you allow yourself to put your goals on hold while we wait for life to “normalize,” we must get honest about what’s really going on. Does it matter that you don’t want to go to the gym because you are limiting your public activities? Can you work out at home or find another way? Does it matter that networking is now virtual? Does that really diminish the connection and make it more awkward?

Just because we can’t do things the way that we would want to, does not mean that we shouldn’t take action in the ways that we CAN.

If you have a goal that is important to you, it is likely that the goal requires some change from your current state. It might require you to get up earlier to write your book or get in a workout. It might require you to operate outside of your comfort zone.

It is going to be uncomfortable. If it wasn’t, you would already be doing it.

Recognize that any goal worth having is going to challenge you. In challenging you, it is going to bring up that part of your primitive brain that wants to keep you safe and in the cave; safe in your cozy routine. Your brain is going to craft all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t be acting.

Whether it is the pandemic or something else, your brain will develop roadblocks for your dreams. It will advocate for the comfort of your present state. KNOW THIS and do the work anyway.

Don’t allow this pandemic to pile on to those excuses. When the pandemic is over, you will create new excuses and you will allow those excuses to derail you too because you are really good and believing excuses. When you allow the pandemic to convince yourself to stay put, you are practicing inertia. You are practicing your current state. You are really good at it. The better you get at your present state, the harder it will be to ever make lasting change.

If you want something else, you are going to have to get really good at strategizing around those excuses and doing the hard thing anyway.

What are you using your pandemic time to become good at? Don’t let excuses and avoidance be one of your pandemic skills. Set the goal. Strategize the obstacles. Get moving. Your life is not on pause during this pandemic, why are you acting like it is?

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Productivity and Perfectionism

Many of my clients describe themselves as perfectionists. They don’t want to do something unless and until it can be done properly. While that sentiment sounds noble and worthy, its impact on our lives is much more nefarious.

The truth underneath that notion is that when we allow ourselves to delay action until it can be done perfectly, we are really just trying to protect ourselves from failure.

But what I often see happening is that perfectionism morphs into complete inaction; permission to remain in place. I’m not ready to move forward yet so I’m just going to stay where I am.

It is not logical to believe that we can plan everything to such an extent that we can eliminate all risk of failure.

You are going to have to risk failure if you are ever going to act.

Those that work with me regularly know that I believe perfectionism is for scared people and I’m not the only one who objects to perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism is a just a prettier word for self-protection.

While I agree that we must all act in a manner that protects ourselves in the highest sense, that self-protective impulse is not relevant when it comes to commonplace activities — applying for a new job, reaching out for support, finishing a large project, sending an email. So many of us apply that self-preservation impulse to those every day tasks and the net result is that we don’t apply for the job, we never reach out for support, and we agonize over the tiniest details of projects and simple emails. Our work takes longer and our emotional fortitude wanes.

When we allow ourselves to linger in preparation mode rather than simply acting, not only do we prolong our current state (assuming we will EVENTUALLY act, which is not always the case, some of us prepare indefinitely) but we rob ourselves of the opportunity to create self-confidence.

Self-confidence is not something we are born with; it is something we create for ourselves.

How do we build it? We take action and fail and develop the ability to move forward despite the failure. When we know we can survive failure, heartache, embarrassment, shame, humiliation and all the other fantastic emotions that accompany failure, we learn to trust ourselves. We realize that we can weather any storm, overcome all those negative emotions. In that experience we develop confidence in ourselves because we know we can do and survive anything that comes our way.

Naturally, that means that in order to become more confident, we must fail. We must take action and set ourselves up to experience failure. If we don’t ever experience failure and adversity, how can we learn to trust in our ability to do and survive anything?

If we play it safe forever, allowing ourselves to linger in preparation so that when we do act, we can act perfectly (as if that ever really works) we prevent ourselves from simply acting and taking the chance that we might fail.

At the same time, we rob ourselves of the possibility that we might act and do it perfectly the first time. It just might work out! All those details you wants to distress over and sift through might never even matter. But you won’t know until you take the risk.

When we linger in preparation we imply that it is possible to know exactly what is needed for success and what is necessary to prevent failure. That is ridiculous.  If that were true, our lives would be very different. The truth is that we never know what will work or won’t work until we start acting and learning all the things that didn’t work.

When my clients explain to me why they aren’t taking action on things or why they are taking so long to complete their work, I challenge them to experiment with the concept of B- work. What if you allowed yourself to present B- work where it was warranted? What if you allowed yourself to recognize that sometimes done is actually better than perfect? What if you accepted that all the minutia, all those nagging second-guessing thoughts might not actually be important to the overall project? What if a client wants a B- answer and doesn’t want to pay for a A+ dissertation-worthy response?

What is the worst that could happen if you just committed to acting and stopped second-guessing?

Embarrassment…shame,…guilt…?

Those are all just vibrations in your body, caused by your thoughts. YOU and how you talk to yourself when things don’t go as planned, THAT is what causes those emotions.

The beauty of it all is that you control those thoughts and you can decide what you want to make it mean when your commitment to action is met with failure. 

It doesn’t have to mean that you are a failure or that you aren’t cut out for your job. It could simply mean that you learned how to not do something; you can add that learning to your arsenal, practice experiencing the feelings of embarrassment of guilt and just keep moving.

Without acceptance of failure, you will never create meaningful success. The price for success is repetitious failure. The process of repetitious failure creates self-confidence. What do you have to lose?

Are you wanting to take action but can’t figure out how to get moving? One session can make all the difference. Sign up for free session and get started creating the life you really want.


Photo by Karyme França from Pexels

Insidious Boredom

I’m bored. There is something about that statement that drives me nuts. Kids say it all the time and that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about here – although, yes, that makes me crazy too. I had a client come to me recently complaining that she was bored with her job. She was bored with her job but when I challenged her to consider why she was bored or to develop ways that she could become more engaged in her work, she immediately went on the defensive.

She had 1,000 reasons why there was no solution to her boredom. She was just bored and it was making her depressed. She had really committed to this feeling of boredom and was really struggling to see the situation any differently.

As coaches, we strive to demonstrate how these thoughts that we have are really just simple choices that we make on repeat. In reality, this client had committed to her choice to remain bored but she saw her boredom as a fact of her existence and not something she could control. She had made herself a complete victim to this boredom and boredom was winning.

This got me thinking about boredom, in general, and how this simple emotion can be indicative of so many larger issues. Most of us experience boredom from time-to-time but we rarely take the opportunity to learn from this emotion. Here a are few ways to reconsider your boredom and use it as a means for further self-awareness.

Choosing to be Stuck.

If it is important for you to be engaged in your life and connected with how you are spending your time but you often find yourself feeling bored, it’s time for a closer evaluation of things. For instance, if your current experience is “bored” and you want your life experience to be “fascinated” or “learning” or “being challenged” then you have the opportunity to take action to create that result. It’s just like when kids whine about being bored and we as adults snipe at them go outside, go read a book, go find some friends to play with, etc. We have all the solutions for the kiddos but when we as adults find ourselves bored, we often act like this boredom thing was just imposed upon us without our consent or involvement and there’s simply nothing we can do about it.

Boredom is caused by our thoughts! It is a choice we are making. Instead of choosing boredom, you could get to work brainstorming all the things that you could do to NOT be bored. You could get to work examining your thoughts that are making you feel bored. If you are thinking I’m so bored because I’ve been doing this job for 10 years you could consider some alternative thoughts that might make you feel differently I’m so glad that I have a job that is not full of stress and anxiety or I am working on finding new aspects of my job to develop and stimulate me. Those thoughts will yield feelings and actions that are must different that I’m bored. I am stuck. I am not taking action. When grown adults complain that they are bored, I can’t help but think – you are bored yet your level of engagement in your job, your family, your life, etc. is 110% within your control; if you don’t like it. Fix it. If you aren’t willing to take action to change your thoughts and fix it, accept that as your choice and shut up about it.

Overcoming Boredom Often Uncovers Negative Beliefs.

Choosing to not be bored is often the first critical step in self-exploration. If you decide you want more excitement in your life, you will likely be faced with options and choices that may drum up some negative emotion for you. Are you bored because you are afraid to go out and try to meet new people because you fear rejection? Are you afraid to set up a profile on a dating app because you aren’t happy with your body? Are you afraid to pick up a new hobby because you are worried you won’t have enough time and you will be stressed? All of these thoughts are motivated by fear and resistance to the unknown. These thoughts generate insecurities and negative emotions.

The fear of feeling those emotions is why so many people choose to stay bored. To stay stuck.

These thoughts are not fun and choosing to overcome boredom may require you to push through those thoughts—to feel the fear and do it anyway. Boredom and staying stuck is a hell of a lot easier than working through these feelings. That is the root of why so many people choose to stay bored and choose to stay stuck.

What Are you Making it Mean?

Even before you consider new actions and thoughts that might create a bit more excitement in your life, I always recommend taking a closer look at your boredom. What is going on in your brain that is causing you to feel bored? Are you thinking about how much you don’t like your job? Is there something you think you should be doing with your life instead? Or consider this: What is so bad about being bored? That is really the question so many of us need to examine. When you are “bored” what are you making that mean?

This is a more insidious kind of boredom. I think of it as Buffering in Boredom’s clothing. We all know those people who are constantly piling on the projects and dragging around to do lists a mile long. They say that sharks can’t stop swimming or they will die. While I don’t know whether that is true or not, I always think about that when I meet these people. They won’t stop moving or adding enormous projects to their plate. When I see this with clients, I always ask them what’s so bad about being lazy or bored? What’s so bad about not being busy? What are you making it mean if you are not busy? Why are you always telling yourself you are bored?

They say things like I just love to be busy. I hate being bored. I like to always be on the move. Then, as we continue to discuss it, the “shoulds” start to emerge. When I’m not busy, I just think that I should be doing more, I should have accomplished more, I should have finished this last week, I should be doing XYZ, etc. They have all these reasons why they are “behind” at life and why they have to be sprinting to catch up.

These people are shoulding themselves to death!

They are so afraid of what will happen if they stop swimming. They are afraid of those thoughts and feelings that come up when they stop franticly accomplishing things. They have all these negative thoughts and insecurities about their value that come to the surface when they stop. It’s like they have decided that so long as they continue to check things off their list and add new accomplishments, THEN they will be worthy. THEN they will be accomplished and successful. This belief is so toxic. Unless and until they sort through those thoughts telling them that they aren’t good enough as they are, this cycle will never stop.

There will always more things for the to do list and none of them will ever fill that gap, and the cycle will continue indefinitely.

For me, this rings very true. My resistance to boredom is often driven by negative thinking: You should be doing more with your free time, Why don’t you have more of a social life? Why don’t you have more friends? Why don’t you have a more engaging career or a more exciting job? Why can’t you find a hobby you are passionate about. It is because of these thoughts that boredom makes me uncomfortable. I am not resistant to boredom in and of itself, I am resistant to the feelings it drums up in me. Feelings of inadequacy. Feelings of lack. This is the root of my problem with boredom. These thoughts are why I try to avoid boredom. Being aware of those thoughts allows me to face them, examine them, and work through them.

No Sunshine and Rainbows

Life is not meant to be sunshine and rainbows 100% of the time. There are going to be days/people/projects/experiences that you aren’t going to love. I promise you. But those experiences that aren’t great pave the way for you to have experiences that ARE great. Yin and yang. That is the basic nature of this life. Expecting everything to be easy street will only set you up for a lifetime of disappointments. Believe me, there have been times in my practice when I had to deal with an issue that could easily be classified as “boring.” While I could easily find myself buffering with all sorts of other activities – I need to get a cup of coffee, I’m going to stop by to chat with so-and-so, I think I need a snack, etc. – it was when I was able to buckle down and commit to being fascinated with the topic that I felt truly rewarded. Being able to commit to learning something new and becoming an expert in something is rewarding and exciting – no matter how boring the topic. And besides, approaching those projects with fascination and the intent of getting lost in the work was so much more fun. I would sit down and say to myself, today I’m going to become an expert in this section of the Internal Revenue Code. Yes, it sounds totally boring but when I approached it with that mindset it was so much more explorative and accomplishment-driven. It wasn’t just another item on my list, it was another opportunity to improve myself and to learn something new from a place of fascination.

Growth and development are things I value at a very personal level and being able to recharacterize a “boring” project as an event in furtherance of my core values allows me to see the task with renewed energy and excitement. Making the most of the challenging experiences in our lives is the only way to move through them and make room for the good experiences in life.

If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled in your life or simply bored, ask yourself why you are choosing to feel that way and do you like your reasons? Why does it bother you so much to be bored? What does the feeling of boredom drum up in your mind? Whenever we find ourselves resisting a negative emotion or thought, even something as simple as boredom, it can be an invaluable opportunity to investigate and challenge some of your closely held thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions about your life.

Feeling bored with life? Take the next step. Allow me to push you to elevate and illuminate your true purpose. Coach with me and see how exciting life can be.

Commitment

I once had a friend who was complaining that she needs to eat healthier and whenever she gets home she’s tired and doesn’t have anything to cook so she just orders in. I asked her Why don’t you plan and prep your meals in advance so you can get out of this cycle of exhausted panic and ordering in? You can plan to have something healthy on hand and ready to cook instead of just deciding to order in and going down this rabbit hole every day? Her response? Because when it comes down to it, I know I won’t want to eat that. I will feel like having something else.

This logic is one of the most time-sucking, goal-derailing theories my clients subscribe to. And let’s be honest, we have all been guilty of it — I don’t FEEL like doing XYZ even though I said I would. I used to avoid planning my outfits for the week because I wanted room for creative liberties – because, what if I don’t feel like wearing a skirt that day?! So, instead I would waste 20 minutes every morning laboring through my closet and the I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR AGONY before rushing out of my house in a sweaty, flustered, and grouchy tornado.

Forget that. Years later, I have gotten wise to my propensity to wear approximately 5% of the clothes I own. Why? Because those are the clothes I most often feel like wearing. So, two years ago, I decided that I will get rid of one thing every single day. Whether that is the extra can opener or those strappy pink sandals that I never wear, every day something has to find a new family. With respect to my clothes, this means that on Sunday, I take about five minutes to pull five work outfits and hang them in my closet. That’s it. Either those clothes get worn that week or they go. I either like them enough to wear them no matter what or they find a new home. This has been magically freeing (but more about that later). I have stopped allowing myself bask in fashion creativity. I force myself to be decisive and no longer give energy to what I feel like wearing. What does that even mean?!

Anywho, the point is, we don’t like to make decisions ahead of time because we want to allow ourselves to make decisions in the heat of the moment, guided by our feelings. The problem is that our feelings are fleeting and our feelings are often driven by our primitive brains. Our primitive brains want to keep us happy, safe, comfortable and warm. The primitive brain will seek safety and pleasure while avoiding resistance. That brain is NOT the brain that will help you climb a mountain or do anything that scares you. That brain is not a cheerleader for healthy choices or difficult workouts. That brain wants the dopamine hit from chocolate cake and takeout Chinese on the couch. That brain cannot be allowed to make any decisions, unless you are running from a tiger, naturally.

Instead, we must make plans ahead of time from our prefrontal cortex – the part of our brain associated rational thinking, cognitive behavior, and decision making. This is the brain that says go to the gym, do not face dive into the box of red velvet cupcakes. Unfortunately, this brain is like your silent partner whose solid advice is often drowned out by the rantings of a lunatic toddler (i.e., your reptilian brain). You have to allow your prefrontal cortex to make decisions ahead of time, when your toddler brain isn’t participating because toddlers don’t care about planning. Once those decisions are made, you have to stick with them. This is where the real work comes in.

Most of us would not deliberately stand up a friend at Happy Hour or bail on your friend for that 5am Zumba class at the last minute so she is left to suffer alone. But we don’t hold ourselves in that same regard. When it comes to commitment to ourselves, we are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad friends. We ghost ourselves on the regular. We make plans and then we skip them. We promise ourselves we will go to the gym and then we hit snooze instead. In those instances, we are letting our warm and cozy, reptilian brain run the show. We refuse to trust the earlier judgment of our prefrontal cortex. We refuse to honor those commitments and will expend all sorts of energy rationalizing our flakiness.

Stop. Doing. That.

Make decisions in advance and commit to yourself that you will do it. Make a meal plan for the week and stick to it. Decide which days of the week, you will have a glass of wine and honor it. Set benchmarks and tasks in furtherance of a larger goal and freaking do them! My clients ask me all the time, How do you accomplish so much? How do you have time for all of that? Here’s the secret: you just do it. There is a reason that Nike’s slogan is Just Do It. Anyone who has done anything hard knows that the only trick is to simply DO IT. There is no magical formula for motivation or progress. You make a commitment to yourself and you honor yourself. It’s time to start treating yourself as well as you treat your friends and the commitments you make to them.

Here’s the icing on the cake. So many of my clients want to feel inspired and motivated to achieve their goals. They don’t act because they are waiting to be moved and inspired. Sorry, people, motivation and inspiration are not synonymous with lightening. They don’t just suddenly appear. They are created by action. Action creates momentum, which creates inspiration and motivation on repeat. How to you take action? Honor your commitments to yourself.

It all starts with learning to make commitment to ourselves and respecting ourselves enough to show up for ourselves. If you can master that skill, you can do anything.

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