Self help books

One of the many reasons why self help books don't work is that they are telling people what they should be doing... We humans resent being told what to do!
But when we worked it out for ourselves then we have ownership and follow through. 
So my job often times is, to help people in a way that allows them to work it out for themselves in a way that works for them... Even if I had a fair assumption of what might be the answer for them I certainly wouldn't say, because it just doesn't have the same impact. I might give you a nudge in the right direction and guide you there but you will always be the one who has done the work. So you get to feel good and resourceful and accomplished about it. Plus you really own your solution, because it was your idea... Yay! 
It's like when someone comes to you with that what they believe is a totally genius idea and you go "hang on, didn't I suggest that the other day and you weren't having a bar of it...? And now that you believe you came up with it? Ans now you think it's genius...???"
Yep, that's the one.
Just smile and congratulate them on the genius idea (and yourself for planting that seed and watering it at the right time) 

Struggle & Progress

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. - Frederick Douglass

Mr Douglas, I disagree. It may have very much seemed so in the specific situation and in the times your quote comes from. But is it far to take it out of context and make it a universal truth? 

Action, yes action is needed for progress. But struggle...?
See struggle is a subjective label, isn't it? 

Have you ever met two people who go through a similar experience and one is upbeat, radiant and has a zest for life despite all that and the other one (who might objectively even be in the better position) is morose, desperate and glum? 

An athlete training for a dream... A mother... An Executive dashing in and out of meetings and planes... A landscape gardener... A fisherman... A surgeon in theatre for 9 hours straight... 
They all seem to have very different ideas what they consider routine, fun or a struggle... 

Occasionally things that used to be fun and exciting have turned into a struggle. Beware... Pay attention... 

The secret lies in the state of mind, the perception, the beliefs, values and in the resources the person can bring to the situation. 

How you perceive taking action, the breakthroughs and set backs is up to you. Let it be easy or let it be hard. That is just a state of mind and states of mind can change. Easily.
In actual fact easier and faster than you may have thought or given yourself credit for.

Sometimes you can even change your mind yourself. And if not, then it might just be a signal to let you know it's time to ask for assistance, so you can move forward with ease again. 

Procrastination or what stops you from taking action...?

There actually are only three (3!) things which stop people from taking action towards their goals. Yes, only three.... And guess...? I'll even tell you what those three things are. 

Identifying which of those three is the one that keeps you from taking action is important. Once you know which one it is, you also know what you need to do to move forward or take action again. 

  1. Not knowing what to do or how to do it

  2. The reasons for doing what you need to do are simply not important enough. Also know as there simply is not enough motivation, yet... 

  3. Fear of making a mistake or a 'wrong decision' or rejection or or or...Simply put it's: fear

Let's check everyone of these out in a bit more detail:

1. What to do or how to do it

I know this sound pretty obvious. Still not knowing what specifically we need to do, is one of the key reasons why we don't take action.
It can be due to being unsure what to do (next or first or now) or not knowing the exact steps we need to follow to get the job done. I know it sounds ridiculous but skill and knowledge are important factors in order to achieve anything.
It's difficult to drive when you get in a car and don't know how to release the brakes.... Or how to and what fuel to put in the tank, you'll only get that far before you  run out... You need knowledge and skill to release the brakes and put fuel in the tank...
It can be incredibly useful to ask yourself: "Do I actually know what specifically I need to do and how to do every step of this process?" I simply assume, all my readers are wiling to admit it to themselves should that be the case and are willing to find someone who has experience and competence in that area... 
Time to upgrade the data or software...

2. It's not important enough:

In order to produce any action we need motivation. Without motivation there is nothing...
Often it's obvious in the language we use: "I should do that..." or "I really should...". 
No movement, no action, no reason to release the brakes or put fuel in the tank... The easiest way to motivate ourselves is by one of two things: Pain or pleasure... Stick or carrot... Loaded gun to the head or millions of $$$... You name it, whatever motivates you... 
Depending on how you motivate yourself, you either take action when the possible pain of not doing it becomes too much... Which means the stick of not taking action has become big and real enough to really hurt...
Or you launch into action when the golden carrot associated with the results from your actions becomes golden and big enough.
If you find yourself not taking action towards your goal it can help to ask yourself:
"What will happen if I don't do this...?", "What will be the negative consequences of not taking action...?" => Find the stick!
"What will be the benefit from taking action?", "What am I most likely to get out of having done it...?", "How will getting this done get me closer to my goal, closer to what I actually want?" => Make the carrot golden and big... 
By doing this you find out one of two things. 
a) Is doing this really worth your time, money and/or energy...? Is there really any intrinsic motivation? 
If it still is just a "should" your best bet is to let it go / forget about it and come back to it when you "really want to", "have to"... When you worked out why and how doing this is important...
b) What type of carrot and stick do you personally need to propel you into action? Then you can use these for leverage and do what it takes.

3. Fear:

Fear is a natural, non-personal response of the brain to a real or perceived threat.
Given the distinct lack of sable tooth tigers these days, most situations we find ourselves in are actually not a life or death situation anymore.....perceived.... I know...! 
Fear mostly is a misuse of our creativity and imagination.... That probably means that you have more creativity and better imagination then you ever gave yourself credit for! No, no, no... Seriously... In my world that's a result Maybe not the one you were after but still it's a result!
With our creative minds we are very good at imagining worst case scenarios or terrible outcomes when in reality, those things would actually be very unlikely. One way to counteract that type of "catastrophic" thinking is by using realistic and common sense thinking. You have two options to deal with this:

A) Ask yourself three simple questions, or write these down: 

  • "Am I creating possibilities that are actually highly unrealistic and probably (a bit) too dramatic...?"
  • "Am I creating consequences  that are actually highly unrealistic and probably (a bit) too dramatic...?"
  • "What would someone who is absolutely logical and realistic say when asked: What is actually most likely to happen when I take this action...?"  

B) Create three columns. I prefer putting pen to paper for this but you might prefer electronics. Either way is fine.

  • First column: make a list of all the things that could potentially go wrong by doing what you want to do. Feel free to let your imagination run, if that makes you feel good... 
  • Second column: Come up with equally creative steps to take to mitigate the possibility of each of those possibilities or consequences from happening
  • Third column: Think forward till you have found the resolution, till you reached the point where you look back and realise: "yep, that wasn't great but hey, I survived". That may be 2 days or 5 years down the track, it doesn't matter. Then write down what steps you'd take to recover from each of the scenarios you imagined in the first column.

There you go. When you find yourself not taking action, find out which one of the three it is and you'll soon get yourself taking action again! 
Stay tuned for more....