Friday, November 2, 2012

Moving Forward: How to Start

Have you ever noticed that it's much easier to hang on to a negative idea or a fear than it is to let go? It's not very difficult to sit in a stalemate with yourself, saying "I can't do this; I'll never succeed at that; I'd try it but..., I'm just not good at... it's just not me".   I've lately started to pay close attention to what I'm hanging on to. I have come to acknowledge, much to my chagrin, how much these feelings are holding me back. Alongside of this, I've noticed how scary it can be to let them go. If you're wondering how it can be scary to let go of an idea, consider this: when you let go of the belief that's holding you back - I can't do it, I'll be rejected, I don't have the time/money/etc - your safety net of staying where you are has been taken away. You have no excuse NOT to move forward. And having no excuses can be frightening! It makes you face those fears and anxieties head on. But here's the marvelous thing: it also lets you conquer them.

I have decided that little by little, that I have to let go of anything that's been holding me back. I've come a long way, and I certainly have been happy with myself and how much my life has improved in the last six months or so. And now it's time to move forward even further. It requires an action plan. In fact, it requires several layers of action plans. Below is the "top level" plan that I'm using for myself- the beginning phase. (Since it's a template I'd encourage anyone to try, I'm writing it in third person).
  • Write down those things that you think are holding you back. Anything that comes to mind, even if it feels odd to list it. If you're not sure, start a running list that you can add to.  Pay attention throughout your days to your internal emotions and physical feelings. Take note of when you're most irritable, anxious, frustrated, you feel a tightening in your chest or back, etc. When you find yourself starting to make an excuse, write it down. 
  • Look at the list again, pretending it's that of a close friend. Now be brutally honest with "your friend". Let's face it, it can be very difficult to admit when it's our own job, relationship, insecurities, past issues, fears holding us back. Yet we wouldn't BS our friend and let them work on changing the wrong things, right?
  • Put them in priority order. Here's a tip: if you want to save it until last, put it first. It's the one you're most frightened by. 
  • Start on the top priority immediately. It doesn't have to be a gigantic step, but it might feel like it. If you've always wanted to do xyz but have been afraid, do a Google search to get ideas of where to start. Reach out on social media. You will be surprised at the people you may never have expected are going through the same thing, or have a likeminded goal/dream. Finding "partners in crime" or a support system for that particular goal can be a wonderful inspiration, and you mind discover it where you least expect it. 
  • Create an action item from this first step, even just one action, and a deadline. Write it down. Tell someone. Accountability is a huge motivator. When you say it out loud, it makes it feel real. 
I have to make two important notes on the above list that are rather crucial, as it can be easy to get caught up and go a bit overboard (you know, the "you decided to clean out your closet and then realize you have to go into work naked tomorrow because you got in the zone and have thrown out all of your clothes" syndrome).

1. Not all "excuses" are bad. For instance, if you need time to yourself and someone asks you to do something, it's ok to be honest and tell them. Spending time with your thoughts is an important part of this process. While technically it's an "excuse", it's an honest and positive one. This is different than "I can't take this next step towards my goal", which really means "I'm scared to try."

2. Don't start picking things/people off like a sniper. Differentiate between "this person or thing upset me today but I can deal with it" and "out of my way, I'm clearing off everything in my path that could ever remotely be negative." Remember, we can learn from rejection, failures, and struggles as well. So, to be cliche but accurate, pick your battles and save your energy for those things that truly are holding you back long term.

I will end all of this scary and dramatic stuff on a positive note. Letting go doesn't have to mean letting go forever. You don't have to be rid of your fear of "I'll never make it/I'll get rejected". You just have to be able to move past it, and know it'll eventually turn out ok. You can be afraid of rejection but take the big step anyways.

I'm going to make this a multi-part blog, with more details on getting through the above steps. So stay tuned. In the meantime, perhaps it's time to start paying attention to your own body and mind, asking yourself, "is something holding me back, even if I've never considered it?" 

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