In this five-part series, I’m going to talk about how we can overcome low motivation and that feeling of “stuckness” caused by obstacles that come up anywhere between starting and finishing a goal or project.
We often surrender to obstacles because it’s much easier than managing our minds and our brains around them.
That’s because our brains naturally gravitate toward what is easy and comfortable. I know mine does, anyway!
In this tiny talk series, I’m going to talk about “DIY obstacles.”
Imagine your project is in a little building of its own and you have to get in your car every day to get to it and work on it. Maybe you don’t have to imagine that – maybe you literally do that.
A DIY obstacle would be something your brain concocts to keep you from getting to your project. If someone literally put up a concrete barricade, or you got a call from the school to pick up your sick kid, those would be “OPS obstacles” – other people’s stuff, or if you prefer a more colorful version of the word “stuff,” use that.
This series will cover five DIY obstacles that I think a lot of creative people can relate to:
- Distraction Actions
- Fixed Mindset
- Not Enough Time
My guess is that you may have heard a lot of what I’m going to share in the next five tiny talks. Instead of shutting down at that point, I want you to reframe that reaction into a valuable question.
How can I apply this in my life today?
For today, I’m going to cover the obstacle of “distraction actions” and give you some tips on how to get on the other side of them so you can move your projects forward and reach your goals.
So, what is distraction action?
Distraction action feels useful but it’s not. For the obvious reason, it’s distracting you from reaching your goals and working on the things that are going to really move things forward.
Distraction action is often impulsive. If you made plans to work on your project and then, at the last minute, decide you want to do the dishes, clean out the garage, or do anything but show up for what you said you were going to do, that’s a distraction action.
What’s really happening is that you’re avoiding discomfort, the possibility of failure, or wallowing in the indecision and ambiguity which we’ll talk about next week.
Here are some common distraction actions:
- Doing chores
- Social media
- Watching videos
- Researching rabbit holes
- Overdosing on educational content/websites, courses, books (my favorite distraction action)…and these often lead to indecision and even more distraction actions!
These are all just actions, and a lot of them are empowering, enjoyable, even necessary. But when we’re using them to avoid showing up for what we say is important to us, then they become disempowering, draining your motivation and keeping you stuck. We’ve chosen to do these things over our projects for the simple reason that our brains would rather choose the easy, comfortable thing.
The opposite of distraction action is focused, forward action, which is risky, often doesn’t have a payoff for weeks, months, or even years, and at times can be very uncomfortable. Of course, our brains would rather go research, eat food, or take another class.
It doesn’t mean anything bad about you, or that you’re broken; it just means your brain is making default decisions.
Here are some tips to deal with distraction actions:
Be solid on why this project or goal is so important to you. Make a list – pull it out every time you need a reminder or are just feeling stuck. Every morning, I write out my goals and why they are important to me.
There is so much information, so many requests, so many shiny objects coming at us every day, it’s too easy to forget what’s important to us and why, so I think it’s a valuable practice to connect every day with what is important to you before starting your day. It takes less than five minutes.
Plan when you’re going to work on your project ahead of time. This is just like anything else – you plan to go to work, watch your favorite show, be somewhere at a certain time, pick someone up at the airport. So, plan the time you will work on your project.
What if you plan and still get distracted? You can quiet your brain by scheduling that thing you were about to do – the distraction action – for afterward. Just tell your brain, “No problem, let’s complete this task because I said I would, and I’m learning to become the kind of person who shows up for what I say I’m going to do. When I get it done, then I can do the shopping, eating, playing, researching, whatever it is.” This way, you’re not feeling like you’re depriving yourself or giving up something you enjoy. It sounds silly but it works. I often do this because my default is being defiant and resistant when it comes to schedules.
Create a Plan B if you choose to do the distraction action. Reschedule your project time to replace your favorite show or on the weekend. Whatever it is, make it a painful option so you’re more likely to just get to it. The key to Plan B is there is no Plan C.
Decide ahead of time what your exceptions are so that if a friend calls and asks if you want to go for a drink or to a movie, you don’t cave in. Think about a job…what reasons would you just up and leave your job for the day? It would have to be an emergency in most cases. Treat your scheduled time for your project in the same way.
Always remember that it’s your choice. There’s no magic spell making you obey or a pill you can take to convince yourself to show up for what you say is important to you.
Be honest with yourself. If the reasons you want to show up for your project no longer ring true, and you really don’t want to complete this project, it’s time to let it go.
Life is too short for that kind of self-torment.
And the final one: be willing to be uncomfortable when you’re disrupting patterns that are engrained in your brain.
I hope you find these helpful and that you apply some or all of them the next time you find yourself choosing distraction actions over your projects, dreams, and goals.
I’m now offering a three-month Fast-Track Coaching Package that includes six bi-weekly 50-minute calls with unlimited feedback on your project. It’s perfect for those wanting to finish a project or get one started without a long term long-term commitment. Book a free consultation to see how we can work together and get your project out into the world where it belongs.