Have you ever found yourself paralyzed and unable to take any action?
I sure did.
A few years back in my corporate career, my department and I in it was going through one of those nightmare periods where you are understaffed, and the new work keeps coming. It got to the point that no matter how many hours I worked in a day, and how many days in a week I worked, I still couldn’t keep up. I felt like I was set up to fail, I felt boxed in. And this on certain days completely paralyzed me. I could then stare at my laptop screen for a long time thinking of what to do next but unable to do anything.
As I’m helping women entrepreneurs to become kick-ass leaders of their businesses, I am seeing some of them going through a similar inability to act, which cripples their confidence and instills paralyzing fear of failure.
Why does it happen to us? Why sometimes do we find ourselves unable to act?
I can think of three main reasons:
Sometimes the fear of failure is bread by perfectionism that many of us women fall into. I want to send that e-mail to the client, but it needs to be perfect as I don’t want to sound unprofessional. I want to prep that presentation so I can do a workshop, but it does not look like the one I have seen from a successful market leader so it’s not good enough.
Sometimes fear is brought by our primitive brain at work trying to “keep us safe” protect us from the unknown a.k.a. threat. That’s why we’re so good in coming up with multiple reasons why we shouldn’t be taking action on this fantastic idea our creative brain came up with earlier.
2. Lack of confidence
This sometimes can manifest itself through analysis paralysis. Before taking action, to make an informed decision we gather data and information to analyze it first. And yes, with big decisions such thoroughness is often needed. However, when this is coupled with doubt, we can entangle ourselves in too much analysis, delaying the decision making, to finally not taking any actions at all.
As a result, we get ourselves in a self-fulfilling prophecy situation: the less we act, the less confidence we have, which leads us to taking even less action.
As Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking” puts it:
“Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result but the cause, of fear.”Norman Vincent Peale
3. Too much going on & lack of clear direction
Just like it happened to me when we take on too much (or are given too much) without a clear direction in our minds, we get overwhelmed. It’s hard to prioritize things when we don’t know what’s important and what’s not. Such overwhelm leads to paralysis and procrastination or on the other hand doing a lot to feel busy but not really doing anything productive.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie’s words are such a wisdom! It’s action, putting our ideas to work is what gives us confidence and lead to even more action.
Let me illustrate this with another story.
I remember the first time as a preteen, I wanted to dive from a high platform into a pool. I was mortified. When I stood on the platform and looked down, my legs shook form fear. But because I was there with a bunch of friends who were having so much fun jumping, my competitive spirit took over. I pushed myself through that fear and jumped the first time. After the first two seconds of terror, I had fun! It’s because I realized that the jump wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. That gave me then courage to go back up and try again. The more I jumped, the easier it got, the less scared I was, and the more fun I had.
So, what’s the moral here?
This story shows you that action is a muscle. The more we work it, the stronger it gets.
So now you’ll probably thinking: but how?
What can I do to take the very first action that will lead me to doing more and growing the muscle?
Here are 5 simple steps that can help you:
1. Understand what can motivate you at that moment.
Think of what can allow you just be vulnerable and leap into action. For example:
- Internal motivation – our competitive spirit (me & diving), need for achievement, proving oneself or even negative emotions like anger.
Going back to my first story, it was anger that motivated me to do something different. It was anger that pushed me to take action and stop feeling helpless. Maybe the anger came because I’m a Sagittarius, a free horse that hates to feel boxed in. Regardless of the reason, I got to the point where through clenched teeth, I said, “no more” and did something about my situation.
- External motivators – we can take action for our kids, loved ones, and other people or causes we care about and have passion for.
2. Be clear on your vision, values, and mission.
3. Develop positive habits and daily routines.
They will make it easy for you to do the things you need to achieve your goals
4. Ask for help when stuck.
Recognizing you need help is the first step to success. Whether it’s your friend, family member, or a hired coach, they can help you get unstuck. They can also hold you accountable and push you to action in the moments of doubt.
Wondering how? Click here and let’s chat about it.
Take the advice from Nike, make it simple and just do it.
To close this piece, I’m going to give you one more visual.
Imagine a baby wanting to be perfect in walking the first time it tries and getting discouraged after the first fall. See what I’m getting at? If babies behaved like adults, none of us would be walking now.
There is something to be re-learned from our baby-selves. Action leads to mastery. It’s OK to fail. Failing is part of learning. No one can get good at anything without just doing, failing, getting up, and trying again. And as we master our walking, then we can start running.
Through action, we become masters. Mastery gives us more confidence & motivation, which leads to more action, more growth, and progress. In such a way that we can create this positive self-perpetuating circle of goodness. The circle that will allow us to achieve the dreams and goals we set for ourselves, and to become authentic leaders and lead by example.
“The path to success is to take massive, determined actions.”Tony Robbins