We all have things that we would like to accomplish that we keep putting off. Wants or dreams that we just can’t seem to move forward with. Every day I tackle this subject with my students, my clients and many times with myself.

In fact, this is a common reason people hire a coach, to help them finally make that change they have been trying to do on their own for years. Many are looking for that magic pill or easy solution. “Motivate me”, give me the once sentence that will make it all click!

Oh if only it was that easy!

I have found that understanding why you are not taking action, or isolating what is holding you back is the best approach to arriving at a solution and to move past it.

These are the 5 most common culprits.

1) You don’t know how. I put this first for a reason, not biggest it is the biggest hurdle. Quite the opposite, this is usually the easiest problem to solve. However, most people MISTAKE this as the obstacle. Now you may not truly know all of the steps to completing your task right now. But we live in the information age. We have access to more information at our fingertips than ever before. If you have a smart phone, you literally have access to a huge mountain of information at your fingertips. Search the Internet and you can find an article, or YouTube video on just about any topic you can imagine. Finding the “how” in our world today has never been easier.

2) You don’t think you can do it. Beliefs are a powerful thing. We typically tap our potential at our belief level, not from a reservoir of what we are truly capable of achieving. Find someone with a strong belief and you will see them tackle a project with perseverance, passion and grit. If deep down, you don’t feel like you are capable of being successful your mind will work on protecting you from failure. You will find an infinite number of other projects or priorities. In most cases, you won’t even get started.

3) You are scared. Fear is probably the number one thing that holds us back. It is a protection mechanism. Our brain’s first priority is to keep us safe from harm, not only physical harm, but emotional pain as well. If there is fear of failure, rejection, or of not being good enough we get stuck in the mud. Most of us will do much more to avoid discomfort or pain, than we will to seek gain or pleasure. If you don’t deal with the root cause of why you are hesitating, your brain will do its best to protect you from this “harm” with avoidance. It will even supply you with some great excuses along the way to rationalize your thinking and procrastination!

4) It isn’t important enough. These last two are tougher pills for many to swallow. I know it has been a wakeup call for yours truly. In many instances, the culprit is that you just don’t want it bad enough. To accomplish something new, or to make a change, requires quite a bit of effort. It sounds nice. You might really want to lose a few pounds, make more money, and find a new job. But how hard are you willing to work for it? The sad reality is that there is a cost to change. It requires effort and sacrifice. If we could just wave a magic wand, we would all be skinny and rich. But it doesn’t work that way. Are you willing to wake up earlier, stay up later, turn off the TV or put down your fork? If your reasons aren’t strong enough, the path of least resistance and your comfort zone will win out every time. You need strong reasons to get you out of bed on that cold morning when the alarm goes off. You need a burning why to get you to the gym when you don’t feel like it, to attend that networking event or make the extra phone call. Your reasons for wanting the results come first.

5) You are more committed to something else. This is similar to number four, but worth mentioning separately. We all have limited resources. Whether it is time, money, or energy, we only have so much of it. If you choose to engage in one activity, you are taking yourself away from another opportunity. Sometimes the most powerful word is NO. It is critical to be clear with your priorities and values and to stay strong amidst the sea of distractions. Whatever you are most committed to will win out every time.

I have been “talking” about getting up earlier in the morning and establishing a more structured morning routine for a while now. I would really “like” to wake up at 5am. It would be great to start my day before my kids wake up and knockout a few wins before the sun rises.

I have even tried a few self-coaching techniques:

  •  I have note cards with reasons why I want to get up at 5am
  •  I read a book called the Miracle Morning to create a stronger why
  •  I have implementation intentions and wrote down all the steps I would take once my alarm clock goes off
  •  I made a list of morning items that I would enjoy to help give me the payoff of getting up earlier

The reality is, when I am truly honest with myself, I am much more “committed” to sleep and my reasons for waking up aren’t strong enough.

Just last night my three year old woke up three times in the middle of the night. Before I close my eyes at night I often wonder – will I actual be able to sleep through the night without interruption? Couple this with the fact that I have seen all the research on how important sleep is to keep your mind and body running in tip top shape and it is no wonder I can’t seem to get myself to sacrifice sleep to wake up at the crack of dawn!

What I have realized is through trial and error is this. What I truly want are the results from what I think waking up at 5am would give me.

  • Starting the day on my terms. Not having the screams of “DADDY I NEED YOU!” be the jolt that starts my crazy day
  • Making sure exercise happens
  • Having dedicated time for reading

Armed with this information I have been able to structure my day so that I can get the results I want, without sleep deprivation or continuing to fight a losing battle. I have a routine that has me waking up before my kids are screaming my name, but thankfully not at 5am. I have shifted and scheduled (crucial element), some of the activities to later in the day.

Most importantly, I no longer have that unaccomplished “goal” calling to me every day, eating at me. Without knowing what was holding me back from taking action, I would have never been able to figure a plan to get the results I wanted.

Fill in the blank from the title. What is something you would like to accomplish that you keep putting off?

Which of the five areas are holding you back? Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments!

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen