by Robert Guzzo, co-founder of Handcrafted Honey Bee
“Why are we always preparing?? Just go!”
Dark Helmet, Spaceballs
When I reach the end of my life and look back, I wonder what kind of thoughts I’ll have. Maybe I’ll reflect on my blessings with gratitude. Maybe I’ll look back with regret for the things I wish I could have done better. But there’s one thing I won’t say: I wish I had waited longer to start living my life for the better.
Why do we wait to do something, even when we know it’s for our own good and even when we want to do it? Maybe it’s natural to procrastinate, or maybe we let our fears convince us to wait: “You aren’t ready yet. You aren’t prepared enough. You don’t know enough. You aren’t strong enough.”
We want our lives to improve, but we feel like we’re not ready to do something about it. We’re stuck.
Nobody likes to feel stuck. It starts to build up inside, and that energy can only be released through action. But instead of focusing on what we need to do in order to be where we would like, we pour that energy into preparing ourselves to be ready to start. Instead of focusing on the finish line, we are spending the entire race looking for the best starting position.
I’m not suggesting that you should skip a necessary step along the road to changing your life. A certain kind of preparation is prudent, even required, for you to reach your long term goals. For example, if you want to change careers, you may need to spend some time training for that new field, so that you have the baseline set of skills required in order to begin the work.
But I am suggesting that we human beings are amazing storytellers. And one of our greatest tales is The Myth of Getting There.
The Myth of Getting There
It goes a little something like this: “I’ve gotten off track, and I want to be healthier. But I hate the way I look right now. When I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be ready to start going to a gym.”
Here’s another one: “I’m unhappy with the work I’m doing. I feel stuck in this dead-end job, but my life is too chaotic and stressful right now. When things settle down, then I can start to look for a better job.”
We tell ourselves: “When I get there, I’ll be happier. I’ll have it all together. I’ll know what I’m doing. And then I can start this new direction for my life.”
Do you see the distinction? In the case of real preparation, I might be going back to school because it is the first step in an intentional plan to change careers. In the case of “getting there”, I am waiting for something to change because I am afraid to tackle the bigger issue.
When we expend our energy wishing for a better starting line instead of running the race, we aren’t addressing the underlying problem. We aren’t really working on the excuse that’s preventing us from acting. And the worst part is: even if we manage to “get there”, we are no more ready to start working on the bigger issue than we were before.
Replacing “Getting There” with Starting Today
If you’re feeling stuck—if you’re waiting for things to get better before you begin changing your life for the better—then the best cure for that is purposeful, intentional action. Let’s take it in five steps:
Begin by stepping back to look at the bigger picture. Analyze the problem you are trying to tackle and get to the heart of what you really want to change. Take note of your emotions when you start getting to the center of the problem, especially the ones that feel like they are holding you back from acting. If you are trying to change something big or dark in your life, you are headed into some scary territory, and it’s natural to feel fear, anxiety, discomfort, or uncertainty when you think about what you need to do.
Write down a plan of action. Your plan will probably consist of steps that have to happen in a certain order. If you have several things that can be done at the same time, set clear priorities. But the most important part of this plan is that the first step has to begin today. No more waiting.
Be very direct in your language. Every time you catch yourself thinking, saying, or writing “I wish I could do…” or “I hope to do…” or “If only I were…”, replace it with “I will…” or “I am…”. You will be amazed at how much a small change in words can impact your entire mindset and self-image. “I wish I were the kind of person that…” is the language of waiting to get there. “I am…” is the statement of a person who strives to do something, even if she falls short of the mark.
Let go of any fears that you’ll do something wrong. Over-analysis can be one of the biggest reasons why we don’t want to act until we “get there.” We want to understand every angle before picking the right direction. But you will always learn more by doing something and making mistakes than you will by sitting on the sidelines and planning the perfect theoretical outcome. Even if you’ve picked the “wrong” direction, the lessons you learn along the way are just as important.
Rely on your support network for motivation and accountability.Talk with people in your life that you trust about what you want to accomplish. Share your plan of action with them. Talk about how these changes may affect them, so that they are prepped and ready to support you. Difficult things are always easier when we do them together. Plus, you’re likely to enjoy the journey more with traveling companions!
Don’t wait for conditions to be just right before starting to live your life for the better. Don’t wait until you “get there” before you start heading somewhere good.