I bet it’s easy for you to spot bottlenecks in your work.
You probably know where your workflow gets stuck, where you expect to have delays, and how to navigate all of that. It’s the same for me, but what I find almost fascinating is that we’re sometimes unable to transfer this ability to identify blockers to our personal development path.
With enough coaches, I eventually learned that blockers are one of the things I should pay close attention to when analyzing my behavior, so I can understand why I fall short on the promises I make to myself.
Decision-making and follow-through are especially important when trying to build new habits, the ones that shape our performance and impact our quality of life.
- Keeping active
- Sleep more and better.
The things we say to ourselves and the things we feel when trying to engage in positive, but difficult-at-first behaviors, are huge deterrents for our ability to stick with them. We either trick our brains into picking up a good habit and sticking with it or we allow the brain to trick us into never changing a thing.
Cognitive psychology calls this defensive failure which is essentially what happens when we want to achieve something and we think about it all the time but we just don’t do it.
Engaging in some form of consistent physical activity is one of those things for me.
Since I got a herniated disc a few years ago, I’ve been using this as an excuse to avoid pushing myself further in terms of physical activity. I tried a few things but none of them actually stuck because I told myself all the things I’ll list below.
What made me finally act on it and start doing something every day was seeing the great things my runner friends achieved. It helped me slowly change the story I told myself.
So let’s go through a few blockers that keep us, humans, from making a decision or sticking with it.
“I just don’t think I can do this.”
“You think somewhere in your heart that you just can’t do it. You think that some people have the talent or the genetics to do this thing, and you don’t.
If you believe that at the core of success is talent and genetics, then this rookie mistake matters a lot; it’s the proof you need that you didn’t have what it takes.”
Cognitive psychologist and coach Amanda Crowell reminds us that performance or any type of above-average behavior is rooted in intent and doesn’t happen by itself. You have to make it happen.
“People like me aren’t good at this.”
“Find people like you doing things like this, and share your concerns with them.”
This piece of advice is game-changer and I’ve felt this first-hand!
Freelancing became a lot more approachable and rewarding when I sought out advice from people who had been doing it for years. The same with engaging in any form of physical activity.
“I feel like I have to do this thing, but I don’t really want to do it.”
“Secretly, you don’t want to do it; you just think you should want to do it. Basically, you value it for the wrong reasons.”
Knowing why you want to pick up a habit is crucial for sticking with it. And I don’t mean the why you tell people about. Being true to yourself and admitting the real reason you want to achieve something is fundamental for your success. It’ll get you through the rough spots and keep you going when the going gets tough.
Saying one thing and doing the opposite
“We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don’t read that book the boss lent us.
The contradictions never end. When someone shows up and acts without contradiction, we’re amazed. When an athlete just does the sport, or when a writer just writes the words, we can’t help but watch, astonished at the purity of their actions. Why is it so difficult to do what we say we’re going to do?”
Seth Godin talks a lot in his work about the resistance, a concept created by Steven Pressfield that Seth illustrates beautifully.
The more you read, understand, and notice the resistance, the better you’ll become at defeating it and following through on your good decisions.
- Quieting the lizard brain
- The Reason You’re Stuck (and the one best way to avoid the six ways that will keep you stuck)
Doing what’s easy never gets you where you want to be
“The tendency to avoid the effortful decision remained even when we asked people to switch to expressing their decision verbally, instead of pushing on the handles.”
“If you limit your choice only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.”
Picking up a few low-hanging fruit is a good way to ease into a new habit so you can fuel your commitment with quick wins! But don’t make this a habit, otherwise you risk never going deeper, never reaching further, and becoming disillusioned with yourself for not achieving the results you set out for.
Your habits are often a byproduct of friction and convenience.
Humans are wired to seek the path of least resistance, which means the most convenient option is often the winning option.
Make good choices more convenient and bad choices less so. Behavior will improve naturally.
— James Clear (@JamesClear) February 2, 2019
Reset the room
Making it easy for yourself to do good things and removing the blockers that keep you from sticking with your decision is one thing. To make your process more effective, strengthen it by making it difficult to do bad things that affect your decision negatively.
James Clear has some excellent advice on this.
Read this: How to Make Your Future Habits Easy
Find your tribe
Other things that have helped me are to become part of an accountability group and join a groups with similar goals for the main topics I’m interested in – freelancing, content marketing, cybersecurity.
Whatever decisions you’re trying to stick with, I hope these resources make a difference for you. To make them work, pick just one that most resonates with you and run with it! Progress is just a step away!
P.S. This was originally sent on July 21st, 2019 (with minor updates added to reflect my current habits).
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