Over the last couple of weeks I've been sharing about the very human problem of delaying desired or necessary actions and decisions, some of the reasons that contribute to these delays, and strategies for breaking through the inertia.
So far, I've talked about waiting for permission, and waiting for perfection. Now I'd like to share about another common reason — waiting for protection. Protection from what? — you may ask. You may be waiting for protection if you are feeling fearful about taking full responsibility for your choices. You may want protection from a fear of judgement (from yourself or others) of making the "wrong" choice, a fear of failure, or a fear of having to be accountable for the actions that your choice may entail.
If this resonates with you, it is important to face the fact that NOT taking action is also a choice. If you don't make any changes, life may seem more predictable (even though life holds no guarantees), and you won't have to confront your fears. But, in the words of the famous hockey player Wayne Gretsky "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
So, if you'd like to break through this fear, here's one strategy to clarify what is at stake. Get a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left, make a list of all your fears about what could happen if you take the contemplated action. Then, on the right side, make a list of all your fears about what could happen if you leave things as they are. After you've made the list, pay attention to how you react to it. What do you notice?
If you are still feeling torn, you can take this a step further. Circle your top three fears on each side of your list, and then rate them according to their likelihood. If you take the action you're considering, how likely is it that your top fears on the left will be realized (on a 1-10 scale)? If you leave things as they are, how likely is it that your top fears on the right will come to pass? Now what do you notice?
If you're still feeling stuck, don't give up. Getting clear about your conflicting fears is a powerful first step. As you continue to contemplate what you've uncovered, a course of action may become clearer. If not, talking this through with a trusted friend or coach can provide additional clarity.
The important thing is to commit yourself to getting clear so that you can powerfully choose to act or not to act. I invite you to "be the referee" in your own life so that you can experience the satisfaction of living life on purpose.
How about you? How has inaction served to protect you, or what strategies have helped you to choose powerfully? Please share your experiences in the comments below!