This post is for the change makers who are stuck…
Recently I’ve been thinking about how we give ourselves so many exits out of what we are most dedicated to. The self sabotaging cycles that we write in the story books of our lives and how we are so amazing at authoring them.
Change feels scary. To any and every human. And when we walk upon change that we want the most, to manifest that reality it inevitably feels pretty frightening. And that’s ok. It’s what we do with that feeling afterwards that matters.
I’ve seen it in my friends, in my colleagues, and most of all myself. The fear of change paralyzes us and often sets us into a cycle of doing everything we can to avoid the change we want most. The long list of excuses that we create keep us stuck. And many of us know these well. But underneath this obvious list is the biggest saboteur of our joy that I’d like to call exits. Doors that are so subtle we miss them and walk through as comfortably as if we are walking through our own front door. Let me explain.
There are obvious distractions you have that support strategies of procrastination. If you sit with yourself for 5 minutes you’ll list them pretty easily. Then there are the not so obvious distractions. I would suggest they less obvious “exit doors” that you maintain which allow you to escape change when it knocks at your doorstep. And many of these exit doors have words like "optimistic," “productivity,” and “reasonable” written all over them. Let’s look at mine.
On any given day, I know my obvious “go to” procrastination strategies and stories. Here’s my quick short hand list:
Social Media - Logging on to check “one thing” and getting lost in many. Comparing myself to others which leads to doubt, fear, and most of all cloudiness around my own vision.
Not enough time - I don’t have enough time I tell myself. I need more hours in the day. In reality this is all a self-fulfilling prophecy of an overpacked schedule and poor prioritization.
Overpacked schedule - Saying yes to everything and no to nothing. Saying “yes” to things that are not in alignment with my goals and objectives. Saying “yes” to what is on the fringe or not related at all to my current focus and the change I’m seeking to create.
Ready for the more subtle? The very strategies, principals, and stories that get me out of a rut are actually sometimes the very obstacles that keep me stuck from moving forward:
Connection: Making phone calls to family and friends. I love connecting with people I care about. The people in my support network are superstars who keep me real, cheer me on, and make sure I don’t quit. But what they don’t know, is that sometimes I’m using them as a distraction. That pocket of time I’ve dedicated to a top priority step that moves me closer to change becomes dedicated to connection. Because after all I haven’t talked to “so and so” for a long time!
Re-priotization: When something isn’t work, isn’t moving forward, re-prioritization can be key to support us to focus on what is most important right here right now. Most weeks I check in at the beginning of each week and get clear about the three things that MUST get done that week. Of course, they must be in support of the beautiful changes I’m making in my life. Butttt sometimes I re-prioritize in the moment mid-day and that list of three that needed to get done by the end of the week are still standing rather than checked off of my list.
Now three of my favorites:
Looking on the bright side: Yep. Appreciating what is good sometimes keeps me from moving forward. Because then I’m making the grass I’m standing in so lush, so green, so cushy, that I never want to leave. I make the grass I’m standing in feel so safe, so comfy, that it becomes my new favorite corner and reinforces playing it safe. I have played this card many times in situations that I knew needed to change, be renegotiated, or end.
Living in the present moment: The reality is that I, and many people who value being present, sometimes use the “present card” as an excuse for doing nothing or more of the same. It’s like the golden ticket that those of us who aspire to live mindfully pull in the moments we feel most fearful.
The Universe told me…. Funny. The Universe told me to get my legs moving and to create big, big change! And now It has me savoring gratitude, the present, and inspired me with a new intuition that nothing has to change. Hmm. This is one of my trickiest exit doors. My mind is quite, quite clever. So when it pulls this trick, I often believe it. Until the voice of change gets so loud that I cannot ignore it. Sometimes that looks like the manifestation of physical illness or pain. Sometimes it manifests in too many obvious signs that I can’t ignore. But the truth is that sometimes I tell myself the Universe is telling me to stay put when it’s just my ego and fear in spiritual clothing weaving a fancy web to catch me softly.
So now you're thinking...wait a minute Marci, you've written joy tips on most of these. Yep. But now you're listing them as an "exit" that actually obstructs your change? Yep. I'm confused. Here's the thing. They can be both. But whether they are truly serving you or not...only you know. And you have to be soberingly honest with yourself to figure out whether they are supporting or chaining you. Figuring out that is easy. Is the change you desire moving forward? If the answer is no...then all these beautiful practices could be holding you back and keeping you safe.
Why don’t change makers create the change they desire? Because the subtle strategies and stories that go unnoticed, that seem helpful, that seem innocent, continuing to play out in our lives.
In order to create change that we are scared of, dedicated to, clear on, and not walk away from the starting line, or even backtrack on the steps we have taken, we must shine some light on the subtle exit doors, close every single one of them, and decide to stop walking through them.
WARNING: It will be uncomfortable. It will feel foreign. It will feel terrifying. But it is absolutely necessary for that change you desire not to go one more month, one more year, one more lifetime, uncreated. And you know that is what you want.
For this week’s Joy Tip Wednesday, I want you to consider, what exit doors am I using to escape change and need to close? What subtle ways is fear taking the steering wheel and convincing me I really don’t want that change I so deeply desire? Here’s how:
- Make your obvious list first. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write all of the obvious ways you procrastinate. Need some help? Use mine as a start for inspiration. I find many of the same procrastination tactics show up for my clients.
- Identify a change you’ve been putting off. It can be something you’ve put off for a week. For a month. For a year. Choose just one and clearly write down in 1-2 sentences the summary of the change you are seeking.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down all of the tasks, ideas, habits, "to dos," time, anything that has supported you to stay in your current situation (also known as no change). Don't worry about the how or the why. Just write down the what.
- Take a five minute break. Do something fun. Listen to new music. Walk outside to get a dose of sunshine. Pet/kiss your cat, dog, or parrot if you are like me.
- Sit down and set a timer for 10 more minutes, look at your list from step 3 and keep asking, is there more? You can use my subtle list as some hints, or maybe you copy them directly because my exit doors are also your’s.
- Choose one small step to move your change forward. A task that requires only 10 minutes of your time and commit to doing it this week.
- Take your subtle exit door list and post it somewhere where you will see it. When you move your one step 10 minute action item forward and any of these exit doors come up, close them!
Patience, compassion, and a whole lotta love is necessary because fear is orchestrating all of your exit doors and when you start closing them, it’s likely fear might increase. But don’t worry, it’s temporary and the best part of all, the more steps you take the more stoked you’ll be about the change you are creating. It’s all about momentum and getting past the first steps that are inevitably tough. I guarantee it will be worth it.
Did this strategy work for you to move one action forward? I’d LOVE to hear about it. Send me a note to celebrate with you. In the meantime, be brave, get clear, and get ready. If you get clear on even one exit door today that is HUGE for empowering you to release the habits that keep you stuck. Now get on closing those doors! You're dreams are waiting and your heart is singing for them.