A friend of mine ruminated for months about setting up a website for her business.
It’s an important project to her. But indecision, competing priorities, and mostly lack of motivation stalled her progress.
The last time we met, she mentioned she had been reading multiple self-motivation books to get unstuck and move on with it.
I suggested she put the books away, stop waiting for inspiration, and just begin taking action.
I gave her the contact information for a website developer (since she didn’t want to figure out the technical aspects herself) and a website designer (in case she needed help with the creative aspects). I suggested she prepare and gather basic content that focuses on her target market’s needs and strategically positions her business.
A few days later, my friend sent me an email saying, “I’m getting my stuff together for my website – I’m taking action!” She had also contacted the website developer, who gave her some good options to get started. She was no longer delaying the process until she felt inspired to act.
Positive thinking and working through your feelings – although helpful – are not required to get things done.
Yes, you want to be confident in your sales pitch, relaxed during a job interview, or excited to work on a big project. But how do you respond when you think you fall short, or when you feel timid, anxious, or unmotivated?
Various psychological approaches to resolving life’s dilemmas – from eastern-based Morita Therapy to western-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) – hold that you can still make progress, get things done, and live purposely in the face of fear, doubt and discomfort.
The next time you’re unable to psych yourself up or get in the mood to do what must be done, try the following instead:
1. Accept your adverse thoughts and painful feelings without judgment.
Efforts to fix your internal state might cause you to fuse more with it and keep you stuck. Self-help books and inspirational quotes don’t always work. And visualization and affirmations can backfire.
Fighting with troubling thoughts can increase their strength. Striving to wipe out discomfort can fuel avoidance and heighten stress.
Your thoughts and feelings are constantly fluctuating. They come and go. They are largely beyond your control. Don’t allow them to dictate whether you take purposeful action or lead a meaningful life.
Negative emotions aren’t necessarily bad for you; they often serve as useful signposts. By allowing your thoughts and feelings to just be, without attachment or aversion, you can co-exist with them in productive and healthy ways. Let them guide you, not rule you.
2. Take action that is aligned with your true purpose and deeply desired goals, regardless of your internal state.
Distinguish between what you think you should do and what you must do to cultivate your ideal life.
If something isn’t really important to you, drop it and forget about it. Focus your efforts on what’s truly important. Break it down into specific, incremental steps, and set a timeline for when you will complete each step.
Lack of motivation is not a genuine obstacle to taking action. When you move forward constructively, regardless of whether you feel like it, your internal barriers will usually start to dissolve and lose their power. Even if they don’t, you’re still working on purpose and living a meaningful existence.
And by taking action, you receive valuable feedback to improve your road map and refine your direction.
3. Keep track of your progress and the barriers ahead.
Note down the actions you took to get closer to where you want to be. Appreciate the small wins to build momentum for big accomplishments.
Pay attention to where you are now and the obstacles and difficulties you still need to overcome. Choose the right challenges and let go of non-starters.
4. Get honest about how you use your time.
Are you spending your time on busy work or seemingly constructive activities that are not really essential? Are you allowing side projects and minor tasks to distract you? If that’s the case, re-focus your efforts and channel your energy into what matters to you.
Although being in the right mood helps, it’s not necessary to get unstuck. Rather, determine what’s important to you and just get moving on it.
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Photo by: Jelle Druyts