By Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
We’ve all been there – we have a vision of something we desperately want to do someday. Perhaps it’s related to our career (“I want to quit my job and open my own business”), or maybe it deals with our health (“I want to lose those 50 pounds that have been nagging at me for years”). And yet despite our true desire to accomplish these things, we don’t.
Instead, we simply think about doing them. We read about doing them, we make resolutions to do them, and we tell ourselves that “this is the year.” But at the moment of truth, we find ourselves looking at unchanged circumstances and unrealized dreams. And that nagging, desperate feeling becomes almost unbearable.
This is inertia, my friends – an “indisposition to motion, exertion, or change” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition). It’s an awful place to be, which is why I’m giving you a couple of tips for becoming less averse to change and actually becoming excited about getting started on your long-desired goals.
Let go of perfectionism. Too often, we hold ourselves to unattainable bars of excellence. We think that if our book is not going to be a best-seller, it is not worth writing it. If we’re only going to lose 42 pounds instead of 50, we decide our efforts will be futile. Let go of the idea that you have to be perfect. All you need to do is be true to yourself.
Practice “balanced ambition.” It’s great to get excited about working towards a long-desired goal, but we often get ahead of ourselves. If we’ve wanted to write a novel for 10 years and we finally decide to do it, we might fatefully decide that we’ll finish it in 6 months. When we’re overambitious, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Practice a more balanced form of ambition by setting realistic, attainable goals.
Analyze the thinking-feeling-doing cycle. The idea here is derived from cognitive psychology: What we think impacts how we feel, and how we feel impacts what we do. Ultimately, achieving a goal is about doing it. It follows that if we’re not doing it, there must be something about our thinking that is making us feel afraid or unmotivated. So start by adjusting your thinking, and the rest will follow.
Find spiritual motivation. This is important for countless reasons. For instance, finding faith in something greater than ourselves can provide us with the confidence we need to push forward. Our spiritual beliefs can also help us find meaning in the suffering we will inevitably endure while working toward our goals (You didn’t think this would be easy, did you?).
Ask the hard question. If you still find yourself stuck, ask yourself, “What will my life be like in 5 years if I don’t (start my own business, lose the weight, etc.)?” Most of us are haunted by our answers, even if they mean – and sometimes, especially if they mean – that our lives will be exactly the same as they are now. This strategy is not about guilt. Rather, it speaks to our need to wake up and realize that our blessed time here on earth is limited. If we really want to do something, the only time to do it is now.