My stepdad’s grandmother used to give him the above sage advice before he left the house, concluding that “You never know when you might be hit by a car!” While I’m all for clean underwear, I doubt if anyone would be examining your knickers immediately following a collision with a car. Moreover, if you were hit by a car, the likelihood that you’d soil yourself before or during the crash is very high.
Where am I going with this? Glad you asked. My point is this: there is such a thing as preparing too much. In fact, one could argue that the 2 minutes you went back upstairs to change into your clean underwear were the difference between the collision and your unimpeded stroll across an intersection, but that’s a bigger topic for another time. Today, I want to draw attention to the area(s) of our lives where we are holding ourselves back and telling ourselves we’re not ready.
There is certainly value in preparation and in studying or investigating, but there comes a point when the time spent researching, brainstorming, making lists, talking about what we’re going to do or what we want becomes a breeding ground for stagnation. It’s that critical juncture between planning and executing.
Now, let it be known that I am very good at hanging in the balance there between not doing and doing, between starting and finishing. In fact, it almost happened with this blog post today. I like to be thorough and I am an excellent researcher - just ask my college professors, my old bosses or my friends. I love digging around, searching for information or researching a trip or a product … and then getting inspired or thinking about things from a different angle and expanding my search even more broadly and deeply, sometimes going down an entirely different path (i.e. a rabbit hole). At times, this can be productive and eye opening. Other times, it can cause me to reroute so drastically that I don’t do the original topic or initiative justice. Or I don’t finish the task at hand.
So what are the tools I use to avoid this trap? Let’s go through an exercise as I share them so that you can apply them right now.
First, I want you to call to mind something that you want to change or want to accomplish in your life. Got it? Good.
Part 1: Take inventory
Taking stock in where you are can inform your next course of action. And it can help get you out of a space of judgment where nothing is happening.
Where are you with said project or initiative? Are you in the planning and incubation phase? How long have you been there? If so, why are you there? Is it keeping things moving, or is it constricting things? Where is this initiative on your list of priorities? Does it continually get relegated to a lower and lower position on the list? If so, why is it even on the list?
Part 2: Accountability
If there is an external source with whom we can check in, this often helps us escape a level of myopia. It can give us a sense of perspective. We remember the world outside of ourselves and what we’re working on. Additionally, we feel an increased degree of responsibility because someone else is now in the picture. And we also recognize that what we deem to be mediocre is sometimes actually great (see also: part 3).
Who is someone you can reach out to to help keep you on task or hold you accountable? It may be a friend, partner, coach, colleague or even an app or work flow service.
What form of accountability would be most useful to you? Is it weekly check-ins to talk things through? Is it status updates that you submit? Ask your accountability buddy for this or identify how you can use an app or software to do just that.
Part 3: Recognize when enough is enough
Know what your stopping point is. This can often take the form of setting a timer, a deadline or some kind of cutoff for yourself. Accountability also comes into play a great deal here.
Revisit your goal or your intention for the project. At the most basic level, have you met or honored it? Have you performed the task with a healthy level of presence and energy without depleting yourself? If so, good. Wrap it up. If not, you’ve likely gone too far. Find a way to wrap it up. Maybe revisit part 2 and check in with that accountability source.
To some, this exercise may seem like an oversimplification, but really, it’s a resource for when we are over-complicating. It’s when we don’t see the forest for the trees that we can get lost in the minutia or in the distractions and cannot see the larger picture. Or we cannot let ourselves be seen.
But I see you! Go forth!