If you’re like most of us, when you try to identify the obstacles standing between where you are and where you want to be, you don’t see other people. No specific person is trying to hold you back. You don’t see physical obstacles; there’s no actual wall between you and your next great job. And you probably don’t see any financial or practical obstacles that you can’t overcome with a little time, patience, and compromise. But here’s what you probably do see: yourself.
You want to get something done, but you can’t. Not because you’re literally locked in a basement, but because you’re locked in the basement of your own mind. And you aren’t exactly sure how to get out. If this sounds like you, here are a few steps you can take that will help you break out of your self-imposed prison and get back on the road to success.
The paralyzing power of excitement
Believe it or not, sometimes the work that excites us the most is the hardest to actually do, especially in the earliest stages. Stop and think for a minute. Are you spinning your wheels and staring in the fridge because you can’t move forward, or are you spinning and staring because you’re overwhelmed by the possibilities in front of you and you’re afraid you might mess up? The most exciting potential outcomes often send us straight into wheel spinning purgatory because of—not in spite of—our level of interest in them. If this describes your situation, recognize it. Don’t be afraid. Just tackle the first step and you’ll be on your way.
Are you hungry, thirsty, hot or cold?
Is something else bothering you, something unrelated to the work at hand? Give yourself five minutes to attend to that need. Take some aspirin if your knee is acting up, put on a sweater if you’re cold, and eat something if you’re hungry. If you have a bad conscience, apologize. If there’s a draft blowing on you, move your chair. If you need some data you don’t have, take steps to obtain it. Then get started. No more excuses.
Find a role model.
Sometimes it helps to watch another person sail over a hurdle that seems too high. Just watching this happen can unlock hidden gates in your mind and unleash a dose of inspiration and guidance that can be refreshing and energizing. Identify someone in your life who can—and often does—approach such obstacles like a horse flying over a fence. Watch that person in action.
Make a list.
Big projects seem less intimidating when we break them down into bite-sized baby steps. So take your big project (“plan industry conference”) and break it down into smaller and smaller tasks until the one in front of you is so small that you can complete it in five minutes. (“Call Steve to determine conference dates”).
For more on how to overcome the mental obstacles and bottle necks that are holding you back, contact the productivity and career management experts at PSU.