Do you ever feel stuck? Do you ever wonder how to get un-stuck?
One of my favorite movies is the comedy Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. In the film, Murray plays television weatherman Phil Connors, whose self-absorbed persona is given its due come-uppance when he is entered into a time-loop that forces him to relive February 2nd, Groundhog Day, repeatedly.
Unfortunately for most people, living in a loop where we repeat the same day endlessly is not a situation comedy. It’s life. Last year was pretty much the same as the year before, which was pretty much the same as the year before that.
If you want this year to be different, you should become familiar with the enemy. Namely, the causes of your repetition. In this 4-part series, we’re going to examine why people get “stuck.”
Reason #1: You need certainty
All of us are built with an internal governor that ensures self-preservation. Our subconscious mind is constantly assessing risks and guiding our behavior accordingly. Should I cross the street now? Is the water deep enough to jump? How hot is that coffee? This natural level of risk assessment is healthy and necessary. However, for many of us, we have been programmed to crank up the volume on that little voice and our gentle minder has turned into an unyielding dictator. We dare not move unless we are absolutely “certain” that the outcome will be a positive one.
Certainty is a myth. Until we take action, we will never know 100% what the outcome will be. Needing certainty creates stagnation and prevents movement.
The heart of this need for certainty is a fear of failure and a belief that failure is our enemy. We’ve been conditioned to avoid failing at all costs. We raised our hand in class once and when we got the answer wrong, the other kids laughed at us. “Whoa. Better not do that again.” We took out a small loan for that business idea we had and we lost our money and are still paying that loan back. “Yikes. You’re terrible at business. Better stick to what’s safe.”
Failure is NOT your enemy. Failure is your friend. It is only through failure that any of us have ever succeeded at anything. We had to fall down on the bike multiple times to learn to ride it. We had to miss the free throws over and over again to learn to make them. We had to pronounce the word incorrectly to be told how to pronounce it correctly. Failure has always been your path to success and will always be your path to success. Write this down: To avoid failure is to forfeit success. That answer you got wrong in class? You were the one with courage to try it! Way to go! And that business that went under? You’re in great company! Henry Ford, Donald Trump, Walt Disney, H.J. Heinz, George Foreman, Milton Hershey (the chocolate guy), P.T. Barnum, and Stan Lee (Marvel creator) are just a few of the wildly successful business people who had to file for bankruptcy prior to achieving success. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, founded a previous company called Traf-O-Data that was a failure. Sony, the electronics powerhouse, did not initially have success. Akio Morita, the founder, began the company by trying to sell a rice cooker. The rice cooker burned the rice and less than 100 units were sold. Instead of giving up, Mr. Morita took what he learned from that process and applied the learning to new products, causing Sony to become the giant that we know today. Harland Sanders, founder of KFC, was rejected by 1,000 restaurants before finding someone willing to try his chicken. R.H. Macy was a total failure in the beginning. His first four retail stores all went under. Today, Macy’s is one of the most enduring retail brands.
How do you get over the need for certainty? Replace your desire for certainty with a desire for feedback. Don’t want certainty. Want experience. What you call failure is really feedback. What worked? What didn’t? That feedback is priceless and it is what we really want. The faster we get feedback, the faster we get better.
Reason #2: Letting obstacles obscure goals
When most of us begin a journey, our mind immediately begins to identify the resources we will need. “I’ll have to have this and that, and this much time, and that many people.” Right away, we’re going to find that we’re missing key pieces. We’re also going to find that the road ahead is not straight and 100% paved. We’ll see barriers and potholes, and sometimes chasms with no visible bridge.
Of course, that day never comes.
Instead of focusing on what we lack or what stands in our way, we should focus on what we really want and why we want it so badly. Imagine your favorite athlete saying, “well, I would run for a touchdown but all those giant guys are in my way. I’ll wait until they’re not here anymore.” What if your favorite band had said, “I’d make music but there are so many people trying to get discovered and all the clubs are already booked with bands, so let’s just do something else?”
The goal and the “why” behind the goal must be bigger than any obstacle. When you focus on the mountaintop everything standing between you and reaching the peak fades into the background. You will begin to see solutions and alternative routes, and your internal creative genius will go to work in your favor.
Leave your feedback in the comments section. Let’s spur one another on to greatness! Then Continue reading Part 2, where I address the next two reasons you get stuck.