Do you ever notice that sometimes the things that are of greatest importance to us are also the things we put off the most?
Here are some examples:
Maybe it started in school: that 15-page research paper that’s worth 35% of your grade (or that personal statement for grad school) that you leave until the night before it's due
It continues in the workplace: settling in a job you don’t love because deciding what the ideal next step is for you along your career path feels too hard to take on
In relationships: avoiding having that difficult talk with someone you’re close to that you know will make your relationship stronger
- And finally, in our wellness: getting into an exercise routine or tackling why you’ve had no energy to do so
For me, I saw this crop up when trying to start this blog. While blogging isn’t the center of my professional world, it’s part of my business and the success of that is important to me. Yet, I hit the snooze button on this for… about a year now.
Why has this been staring at me in the face on my to-do list for months only to continually get shuffled around and added to different agendas? Or, perhaps the more important question is:
why do we self-sabotage so often?
Many of the examples above are ways of delaying the inevitable - dragging things out that we know in our gut we’ll have to deal with eventually. After working with many clients who’ve felt “stuck” in their career or health for months, or even years, before taking action, I have some ideas for both why this happens and how to change it:
An obvious answer, but take a moment to think about the culture around you. Busy is expected and praised. When someone asks you how you’ve been, I invite you to notice how often your reply includes “Busy, but...” I’ll do another post all about the glorification of busy, but for now my point is that we’re so accustomed to filling our schedules to the brim that it seems like we don’t have room to do these things that require extra energy, time, effort, and maybe even a little discomfort.
We don’t set goals
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but there’s lots of research showing you’re a bazillion* times more likely to achieve something if you set concrete and measurable goals (*slight statistic exaggeration). We know this, yet we still don’t do this or perhaps only do it on January 1st and barely look back. What keeps you from setting, or checking in on, goals? Is it too hard to concretize them or remember to come back to them? Are you afraid you just won’t meet them?
We’re afraid, overwhelmed, or paralyzed by perfectionism
When I get down to the root cause with my career and health coaching clients, it’s often actually because of one of these reasons. Thoughts, loaded with self-doubt, like “What if no one will want to hire me?” or “What if I’ll never be able to lose weight?” can be paralyzing. What type of negative self-talk goes on in your brain and how do you let your fear talk you out of taking action?
Whatever the reason for interference, how can we break this habit of procrastination and work towards our goals in a more proactive way to live more satisfying lives? The answer is actually quite simple.
It can be that easy.
Share your aspirations with your friends and family (or start with yourself by answering the questions I asked earlier- what do you want to do and what’s getting in your way?). That simple action, first and foremost, makes it all much more real. The process of talking through things can spark new ideas, help you visualize what you’re really trying to achieve, and at the least will be a way to have some accountability. If someone follows up with you to ask how you’re doing on _____, you’ll feel more of a commitment to follow through.
Marie Forleo sums it up well when she emphasizes the importance of progress, not perfection. Even if you realize you need to completely change your approach, trying is the only way of knowing and nothing will ever get done without taking that first step.
Hope this helps you to feel a little less stuck, and able to start tackling whatever may be lurking on your perpetual to-do list!
If you’re looking for someone to help you both set and work consistently on your career and/or wellness related goals, feel free to reach out for a free consultation! I’m passionate about helping people move forward in their lives. I’m a career counselor who helps clients find jobs they love, and holistic health coach who helps clients find sustainable ways to feel healthier.
I joined these two services into a single practice, knowing that often, when we feel stuck in one area of our lives we very likely feel stuck in other ways too.
With a one-on-one tailored approach, I’ve worked with thousands of people to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. Stay tuned on here for weekly posts where I’ll share recipes, healthy life hacks, and job search and career management advice from my 10 years in this field.