Is there something that you want to do for yourself… but no matter how good your intentions, you just don’t do it?  You aren’t alone.

“I’m not really sure why I haven’t…”

I met Andrea back in 2014 (3 years ago, almost exactly) at a conference for transfer school educators in New York City that takes place every June.  I complimented on the cover photo on her phone, an adorable picture of her then-three-year-old daughter at Easter.  The photo captured the little girl’s intense delight with the stuffed bunny in her basket, and it was just the right mixture of adorable and silly.

“That’s such a sweet moment! You’ll be so glad to have that picture. I’m always way too slow to get my camera out!”

She then told me that she absolutely loved taking pictures and always had.  “I hope that someday I have the time to take one of those online photography courses. I’ve seen a few that are free!”

I saw Andrea at the same conference again last week.  I asked how her (now-six-year-old) daughter was enjoying Kindergarten. She got out her phone and flicked through many adorable photos of her daughter.  Remembering her comment, I asked: “Did you ever take that photography course?”

“I haven’t… I haven’t really had the time.  I really, really want to, though.” She looked wistful. “I’m not really sure why I haven’t.”

It’s usually what we want for ourselves that gets pushed to the side

I’m sorry to report that I’ve heard a version of this story from educators, therapists, and other helper types across the country again and again.  

They are fascinated by something (poetry, hiking, writing, Japanese Haiku) and they want to look into it, spend time with it, dig into it… but they don’t.  

For years.

These same women will have slogged through a whole year of weekly piano lessons for their child…. without ever finding the time to spend even one hour exploring the local yarn store. She will support the chess club at her high school to the tune of 25 unpaid hours without ever taking one single hour to watch ice skating during the Winter Olympics.

We helper types will always put caring for others ahead of caring for ourselves. And while that is noble it’s also a big part of why so many educators, entrepreneurs, healthcare workers, and coaches are burned out and exhausted.

If you are going to make a long-term career out of this kind of work, you MUST learn how to make time for what YOU love.

To engage in what delights you.

To do what FASCINATES you.

How to break through your resistance and finally do what fascinates you

This week I’ve got a Guided Journal for you that helps you name your resistance, shift your mindset and actively set your resistance to the side and take immediate action.

  1. Identify the project, hobby, pass-time or problem you have been putting off.  This should come to mind right away. It’s the thing that has been calling your name when you are mindlessly driving, or pops into your brain while you are waiting in line.  It feels really important, though you may not know why.  It could be a skill you wish you had or a project that would take a hobby or passion to the next level.
  2. Explore why this project feels so compelling.  You can free write or brainstorm using a mind map (both are included in the Guided Journal); whatever you choose, DO NOT judge your thoughts.  Just let them flow.  You will likely be surprised by what comes pouring out.
  3. Name your resistance.  Usually when you are resistant to make progress on something it’s because the project violates a value you hold dear.  There are three such beliefs that regularly stand in the way of the therapists I’ve worked with.  Though some people struggle with all three of these, most people find that one of them is way, way stronger than the other two.
    • It is selfish.  You may feel that every single second you spend not in the service of others is unacceptably selfish.  When you find yourself saying “I just don’t have the time” this is usually what’s operating in the background. The time (and money, and effort) exists, but it feels deeply uncomfortable to reserve that resource for yourself.
    • It is cocky.  When you think about making progress on your project do you get a heartwarming feeling of pride and excitement followed by an immediate wave of guilt?  This is classic fear of success- secretly you believe you could crush it, but that confidence causes you great angst.  You worry that other people will “hate you” if you succeed and so you stay right where you are.  If you find yourself saying things like “Who am I to think I could be a writer?” or “What makes me think that I’m cut out to have a large group practice?” then this one is in your way.
    • It is futile. When you think about making progress does your heart sink?  Do you find yourself saying “I’m just not that kind of person?” or “I don’t see the point of even trying?”  Failure is really, really hard to face- especially when the project in question is something you desperately want to succeed at.
  4. Suspend disbelief and set that other belief aside for a minute. Each of these beliefs is powerful, but not all-powerful.  You CAN learn to hold the anxiety brought about by the belief at bay while you take small steps towards progress.  Once you are underway and the sensation of making progress becomes familiar, that anxiety will ease.  Take a few minutes and explicitly set it aside, in writing in the Guided Journal (I’ve given you a template you can use).
  5. Lower the stakes- take TINY STEPS until you feel freer. Making progress while you are holding the tension of one of these beliefs can easily become overwhelming if you try to do too much too early. This is why you must LOWER the stakes on the progress you try to make.  Think of a simple, non-intimidating step that you can take tomorrow.  If you want to become a published writer, make your first step a letter to a friend.  If you want to run a 5k someday, try to walk for 5 minutes and run for 1 minute.  Find a first step that feels completely accessible, or even laughably easy.
  6. Get started right now. Today (or tomorrow) is always the best day to get started No more resistance on your part!
what is holding you back

Here’s the bad news: You can’t get rid of these resistant beliefs without taking concrete steps.   For example, you really won’t believe in your heart that it’s actually unselfish to take time for yourself until you experience in your real life how much nicer you are to the people you love.

But here’s the good news: Once you start taking steps, these beliefs fall away very quickly!  As you take tiny, daily action on your project you’ll discover that your resistance was psychological smoke and mirrors designed to keep you stuck safely in your comfort zone.

Download the Guided Journal to walk through these powerful steps for your own project.

I’m READY to cheer you on in the Great Work Community!

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.