I don’t know about you, but I often delay doing something new, waiting until I “feel ready.” For example, when I realized I wanted to be in a relationship, I could EASILY delay putting myself out there. I would ignore Tinder or Match because work was too busy, I was too out of shape, or I had been working too much and Kindle (my pup) deserved more of my time for a little while. I thought that one day, I would wake up and the sun would be shining, I’d look phenomenal, and I would just instinctively know I was “ready.” I would finally “feel ready.”
Do you know how many times that’s happened? That I have woken up on a bright sunny day, looking phenomenal and just “feeling ready” for what I needed to do?
I can probably count the times on one hand. Scratch that, I can probably count them on one finger or rather zero fingers. By the time I woke up “feeling ready” to do that thing, I was no longer even worried about THAT thing; I had moved on to worrying about something new.
As an introvert, this is true of many situations where I have to meet with new people or people I’m not sure are fully interested in what I have to say. However, I typically don’t get this way about physical things. I don’t wait to go to Yoga, Warrior Sculpt, Pilates Fusion or Cardio Kickboxing (thank you, LifeTime Fitness), until I “feel ready” to go. I recognize that I am going to build or stretch or improve muscles and skills I don’t have; if I had the muscles or was that gumby, I wouldn’t need to go as badly as I do when first starting. When starting to snowboard, I didn’t wait until I “felt ready” to go down the slope. I knew looking at the mountain (bunny slope) wouldn’t make me feel any more ready, in fact it would probably lead me to feel LESS ready if anything, so I just did it. (That’s a little easier, because all you really need to do is get on the lift, once at the top you basically have no choice but to get your butt down the slope.)
In starting my coaching business, this is something I have had to face head on, daily. The only way to really build my coaching business is to TALK to people, a lot of whom are either strangers or people I don’t know very well and I definitely don’t know if they are on board with what I’m doing.
Faced with this each and every day, I grew curious about how I came to be this way. After all, I don’t experience it everywhere in my life and I take risks: I jump out of planes, bungee off of buildings and roll myself down the hills of New Zealand in a plastic ball. Where did this come from?
After a lot of digging, feeling and thinking, I landed on school and sports. All our lives, up until we were about twenty, potentially older, we were in a constant state of “practice before ACTUALLY doing.” We practiced our math skills before a test, our reading comprehension before the exam, plays before the big game. For about 20-25% of our lives (if you live to be 100 as I plan to do), we not only “practiced before ACTUALLY doing” but we were told we HAD to. The kids in school who didn’t study or practice were not made heroes, they were made examples of. Those were not the kids we should want to be like. We were told to pay attention, practice and study hard so that when our parents, coaches and teachers asked us if we were “ready” for the exam/test/game, we could answer “yes!” Goal achieved!
Then, we left school and suddenly we were being asked to do things we’d never done before, but there was no allotted “practice” time. We couldn’t spend days practicing how to pull data from Essbase or Tableau Dashboards before providing it or doing the analysis. True, few leaders expected us to know how to do everything from the get-go and we did get time to be imperfect, but it was still different. It wasn’t “practice,” our boss still saw our work and it was needed to move projects forward. Of course, we could rehearse presentations on our work, but we were really only able to do that by ourselves or with peers. We didn’t get a “practice” presentation before the CFO or VP where we could come back to do the ACTUAL presentation. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Now, we have to undo these habits that were hammered into us for the first big piece of our lives. Some of us really struggle with undoing it. We’ve tried to find ways to “practice before ACTUALLY doing.” We find people to rehearse with, we read a thousand books on excel, leadership or Python.
What can you do about this inability or impossibility to “feel ready” to do something new? What can you do to break this habit? I spoke about what worked for me in this video: https://www.moreispossiblecoaching.com/post/first-facebook-live-our-need-to-feel-ready . For me, it was really helpful to understand what belief or context I was viewing the situation through, so that I could change it. This is something I work with both my clients and own coach on. If this doesn't resonate with you, I also have 8 other exercises or things to help get you comfortable with not “feeling ready.”
Write or discuss with a good friend, what could really go wrong when you do this thing. Could you get fired? Could you offend someone? Then, if this does ACTUALLY occur, what happens next? If you got fired, would you never find another job? If you hurt someone, could you never make it right? After putting that out there, how does it seem? Does it still seem big and scary? Or, have you realized that, even if it does go terribly wrong, it’s not actually the end of the world?
Write or discuss with a good friend, what happens if you don’t do this thing. Will you never get promoted? Will you let your boss or team down? Will you hurt someone else? Will you end up alone forever? Now, knowing all that, how would you feel if you didn’t do it? Would you prefer to do it and not feel that way?
Write or discuss with a good friend, WHY you are doing this, why you even got the crazy idea in your head to even do this scary thing, or why someone else knows this is good for you. There is something in it for you, that’s why you have the opportunity. Where did it come from? What does it provide for you? This is more intangible than the previous exercise. In the previous exercise it’s actually about what events or things will happen or occur, once you have done this thing. Here, we’re talking about WHY all of that is important to you. What value do you create by doing this thing? What is its meaning for you?
Write down or discuss with a friend, all the times you did something scary and it was a success. All the achievements you have worked for and earned over the years. All the obstacles you have overcome. All the uncomfortable situations you have survived. As the quote goes, “You have survived 100% of your bad days.” You have. And you will survive this. Remembering all the things you were scared to do and what they created for you, can be huge.
Create a reward for yourself after you have done the terrible thing. A fabulous dinner? A longer run? A massage? A night in with your book? What is something you can promise yourself to do for yourself, once you have done the thing, REGARDLESS of how it goes? Remember, reward the behavior, not the outcome. This way, you know, even if you get fired or hurt someone, before you go to jail or have to start looking for a new job, you’ll have an evening to read or fabulous massage or night with friends to rant about it with. The world will not immediately end after you do this thing. You’ve made sure of it!
Use negative reinforcement! How can you punish yourself or what can you remove from yourself if you don’t do this thing by X date or time? No TV, no margaritas, no book time, no running? This punishment may reinforce the fact that you really will suffer if you don’t do the thing. Again, this is not to be used against the results of doing the thing; you can’t punish yourself if you don’t do it PERFECT. You can ONLY punish yourself if you DON’T do the thing.
Put yourself in similar situations where you have to do something you think you’re not ready for. If you are afraid to ask for something, find strangers and ask them for crazy favors. If you are afraid to go to a gym for fear of being judged, go walk around the mall or another crowded place. Eat new things, go to new places, etc. The key here is to strengthen that courage muscle and to expand your comfort zone; to do more things on the edge of your comfort zone to realize you can do them and not die or wreak havoc on your life.
Come to terms with the fact that you are not as ready as you wish you were and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’ve learned a specific exercise I use with my clients here, but the gist of it is to accept the situation as it is. You wish you could practice your presentation in front of 20 people or for two weeks before the big day and you can’t? Accept it. You wish you could go on practice dates with some of your guy/gal friends before actually putting yourself out there? Accept it. List why it sucks and why you wish it were different, but then, accept it. Accept that there is no way to make yourself “feel ready” other than to do the thing itself. And then….do the thing.