Are you stuck in a rut? Constantly dreaming of a better future but never quite ready to start? It’s time to just begin. Read on to learn my top tips to stop dreaming and start doing.
It took me two years to start this blog. There was so much to learn and I wanted to do it right. I told myself I was being cautious and professional. But in my heart, I knew the truth. I was afraid to begin.
I was in fact being a big, fat chicken, so afraid of the unknown that I frittered away two years. Two years! I just sat there in the driver’s seat of my life, stuck in park and going nowhere fast. Meanwhile, an exciting new life beckoned while I fiddled around.
Na, na-na-na, na, Jane is a chicken!
Most of us view learning, preparing for a project, and striving for perfection as positive things. We’ve been taught that learning is good, you can never be too prepared, and if you’re going to do a job, by gosh, you might as well do it right. Right?
Too much of good thing
These traits stop being positive when you use them to avoid action. At that point, learning and perfectionism become just another sneaky form of procrastination.
Sure, you feel great. You’re learning new things, you’re proud to be perfecting something and you can point to all your time and effort. But what do you actually accomplish?
Not a darn thing until and unless you act.
Life is too short to fritter away your time. The time for action is now.
Dream big, start small, but most of all, start.Simon Sinek
I love to learn. In fact, my favorite part of almost any project is the initial planning stage. (Yep, I’m a nerd.)
Whether it’s choosing a vacation spot, starting a side hustle, or learning to knit, my first step is always research.
I read books and reviews, listen to podcasts, and watch endless YouTube videos. Sometimes I even sign up for a class or two to learn new skills. Then there’s the note-taking, the list-making, the daydreaming. I love it all!
The more I learn, the more excited I get. It leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and the urge to learn even more. Recently I’ve explored:
- Starting a YouTube Channel
- Plant-Based Diets
- Self-Publishing Books
- Using a Sony A6400 Camera
I’ve learned so much and I enjoyed it, but — and this is a BIG but — what do I have to show for it?
- Do I have a YouTube channel? Nope.
- Am I eating a plant-based diet? Are you kidding me?!
- Have I written a book? Only in my dreams.
- Yes! I did buy a camera! (But I haven’t used it yet.)
Actually, I haven’t really done anything.
The secret to getting ahead is getting started.Mark Twain
Take action and begin
All too often I use learning as a form of procrastination. Procrasti-learning! I invest hundreds of hours in learning, but I never actually DO anything about it. Learning is safe, it’s easy, and it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something even when I never act on what I’ve learned.
Action, well that’s another story. Action is scary, scary, scary. If I act, I can fail. I might look silly or embarrass myself.
Every time I think about beginning, the voices in my head go crazy, warning me off. But there is one huge danger that my subconscious seems to miss: if I don’t act my life will pass me by.
Sure, I’m safe, but am I excited? Enthusiastic? Thrilled? Am I eager to face the day? Do I feel alive, or am I just going through the motions?
How about you? Are you guilty of procrasti-learning?
It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.Marcus Aurelius
Perfectionism as a form of procrastination
I used to pride myself on being a perfectionist, but now I understand that perfectionism is just another form of procrastination.
Take that YouTube Channel I’m planning to start. I want to do it, I really do, but first I want to get everything just right. I need the right location, the right camera, the right lighting.
Then there’s my appearance. Shouldn’t I buy a new outfit, research the correct makeup, whiten my teeth, and paint my fingernails before I begin? Oh, and I definitely need to lose 20 pounds before I step in front of a camera.
Guess it might be a while before I’m ready to begin!
Perfect is the enemy of done.Catherine Carrigan
Perfect doesn’t exist
Honestly, to an outside observer, I must appear a little crazy: so many silly excuses, so many needless delays. What on earth am I doing?
I’ll tell you what I’m doing: I’m hiding.
Afraid to begin and afraid to fail, I keep delaying my start so I don’t have to face my fears. It’s scary starting something new, so I’m hiding behind my perfectionism and shelving my dreams. Only when I have things absolutely perfect will I feel like it’s safe to proceed.
Well, guess what? Perfect is never going to happen. If I keep waiting for perfection, I’ll never begin.
Now that would truly be tragic.
Is your fear hiding behind the need to be perfect? Why not decide things are good enough and begin?
The moment you feel yourself hesitate on something you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1 to activate your prefrontal cortex and interrupt the habit of overthinking, self-doubt, and fear.Mel Robbins, The 5 Second Rule
Learning is great. Doing something well is great. But at some point, you have to shift into drive and begin.
Without that shift, you’ll never get anywhere. Without that shift, you’ll be left with someone else’s stories, a handful of scribbled notes, and too many unfulfilled dreams.
Would you rather read about someone else’s adventures or live your own excellent adventure? Stop procrastinating and begin!
Here are my new rules for active living:
- Set a time limit: At the beginning of a project, schedule a time for research and learning, then act. (Hint: you need less preparation than you think.) Make this non-negotiable.
- Make growth your goal: Perfect is not a goal. Perfect doesn’t exist. Growth and experience and transformation are the only goals you can achieve. Forget about perfect.
- Fail faster: Every “fail” is a lesson learned. Every “fail” takes you closer to your goal. It’s all about your attitude. In reality, there is no failure, only learning.
- No one cares: You are not nearly as fascinating as you think you are. The world isn’t paying attention to your every move, nor does it care if you make a mistake.
- Scary is good: Lean in to scary. It means you’re onto something that excites you. Let scary be your compass, leading you into new territory. Try to move beyond your comfort zone every day.
- Just begin: It’s OK to learn as you go. Start before you’re ready.
Don’t let anything stop you
I will always love learning (I signed up for a new class just last night!). I will always strive to do my best. What I won’t do is let it stop me anymore.
Learning and being a perfectionist are simply means to an end: achieving your goals. The minute they stop serving that end, they become obstacles in your path.
I don’t have time to waste. I want more than dreams and wishes to show for my time. It’s time to begin.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a YouTube video to shoot!