Decision Making

Guilt: The Instigator for Procrastination on New Years Resolutions

“I will be happy when...” - the 5 words that keep you stuck feeling guilty when you really want to feel happy.

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I wrote this last week and hesitated to post it until a client and dear friend reached out with a dilemma. She had gotten a message about an incredible, dreamy opportunity and she was feeling resistance around the visibility it would give her because she wasn’t confident enough in her physical appearance...yet.

After my chat with her about how she was feeling, I decided to share...


A couple years ago I posted about how my New Years resolution was to cancel my gym membership (and to stop making New Years Resolutions). A couple months ago I posted the recording of my talk from the Women in Business event in London where I shared my idea about letting go of failure to feel more successful (what I think we all really want to feel is joy rather than success).

So - one thing I have let go of in the last 12 months is…

GUILT.

It was about as difficult as getting divorced and dividing up all the assets, going to court, filing paperwork... Then sitting in a holding pattern for a few months just to make sure I didn’t change my mind only to find that I still need to change my name and call every entity who has my name somewhere and let them know “I’m Tara, and I’m divorced.” Then have to send them documentation to prove it, as if I would make something like that up and waste my time sitting through automated call routing systems for fun. Now that I think about it, guilt was sort of like being in an arranged marriage, because I certainly didn’t ask for it. It just showed up.

Most of all, it was like being married to someone who doesn’t think I can ever do anything right...

“You never do the dishes.”

“Don’t do the dishes because you load the dishwasher wrong.”

Guilt also makes us say things like...

“You pay for that gym membership and you never go.”

“You should go to the gym so you can stop wasting money.”

“You should be more productive in your business.”

“You work too much and you don’t get enough sleep. 

“You should be getting more sleep.”

“You should wake up at 5am because Gary Vee gets more done before you wake up than you do in your entire day.”

“You’re not delegating enough.”

“If you delegate too much then everything will fall apart.”

“You should meditate every morning.”

“You could meditate more if you weren’t always thinking about all of the things you are doing wrong.”

It sounds a bit like Goldilocks - nothing is ever “just right.”

If you’re feeling stuck right now, it could be fear. It could also be GUILT.

>>Guilt teaches us that we have to be perfect.

>>Perfectionism teaches us how to procrastinate.

Perfectionists get stuck when they over analyze all of the “what ifs” and “shoulds.” It’s not that they aren’t motivated. It’s that they are waiting for the stars to align before they make a move because they are tired of not being good enough.

There’s a better way to do all of this though, for my perfectionist friends who likely learned guilt at an early age (perhaps after deciding a blank wall looks like a perfect place to use your colorful markers because it’s strikingly similar to a blank piece of paper...only bigger so the possibilities are endless).

The answer: focus on how you want to FEEL first.

I used to feel guilty about the gym. Guilty for paying it and not going. Then guilty for not going and still paying for it. Then you go to cancel and they make you feel guilty for canceling when they ask you, “How are you going to reach your fitness goals if you aren’t paying for this membership?” 

Then I realized I am actually not stuck, I am going in a circle: guilt > perfectionism > procrastination > guilt (and repeat)

And if I am not stuck then I don’t have to figure out how to get started again. I only have to figure out how to take different actions.

The instigator in all of this is guilt, not perfectionism or procrastination. If you have siblings then you know what I’m talking about. It’s sort of like sitting in the back of a car on a long road trip getting super upset that someone is touching you or elbowing you and it turns into an all out fist fight. Your parents turn around and ask you to stop it and everyone says “s/he started it!” Guilt is sort of like that. It’s never guilt’s fault. But it is.

So, in order to take different actions (and to let go of guilt) we need to focus on how we want to feel. Another thing that’s not easy to do since we are basically taught happy is good and everything else is bad and something we don’t talk about.

I’ll tell you what I did to try to solve this problem.

I hired a health coach to tell me what to eat and I hired a personal trainer to tell me when to work out. My personal trainer said something to me one day, “You make this sound really hard but you make it look really easy. Are you sure you don’t know what you’re doing?” Then my health coach asked me what I was eating and I told her all the things I should/shouldn’t be eating. 

For the most part I already knew what to do.

The thing they helped me realize was I didn’t have a lack of knowledge. I wasn’t doing what I knew I needed to do because I was focusing on the wrong emotion.

I decided to replace feeling guilt about the gym with feeling ENERGIZED. From that point forward I have only done things that make me feel energized...

  • On days when I exercise at 6am, I get more done between 7:30-9:30am than I do in 8 hours when I don’t exercise.

  • When I don’t drink caffeine or alcohol, I am so much more creative and can write posts like this for days (lucky you if you’re still reading 😉)

  • When I have to wake up at 5:30am to go work out, I go to sleep earlier.

  • When I eat less sugar and carbs, I don’t crash at 3pm and need a nap.

Choosing the Feeling comes <before> the Action (not after).

Remember, you’re stuck in a roundabout not at a stoplight. All you have to do is pick an exit and it’s a whole lot easier to do that in 2nd gear than it is in 1st.

How My ‘Stop Doing’ List Helped Me Achieve My Goals In 2018

The things you choose not to do are just as important as the things you choose to do.

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I absolutely love ‘to do’ lists! I don’t really love making them, but I adore crossing things off of them. It is such an amazing feeling! I am also that person who writes out ‘to do’ lists and color codes them just to keep it interesting. (Who else has a drawer full of colorful pens?)

There’s just one problem with how I was making these lists though…I used to think more was better and multitasking was more productive. I also had a lot of fun chasing all the shiny objects and butterflies that crossed my path. I am also that person who comes up with an idea for a business and within 30 seconds I have purchased the domain and come up with the entire business plan in my head.

The moment that changed everything for me was when I started my ‘stop doing’ list. It didn’t replace my ‘to do’ list, but it sure did clean up what I allowed myself to spend my time on.

I didn’t come up with this concept on my own.

A few mentors told me I was going to burn myself out doing what I was doing, then I heard somewhere that Brendan Burchard only creates one new program each year (not 3), and then I read about Steve Jobs’ speech at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in 1997 (which I also referenced in this article about publicity here).

Jobs said...

“What focus means is saying no to something that you [think]--with every bone in your body--is a phenomenal idea. And you wake up thinking about it. But you say no to it because you're focusing on something else."

It wasn’t easy to do…

I had to say “no” to a lot of opportunities that could have been really fun (like working with a celebrity client, a brand partnership for a beauty product, becoming the Chief Communications Officer for a startup, giving a talk about Artificial Intelligence…). I am not one to focus on regrets, but if I had to pick only one thing to do differently in the past year I would have listened to my mentors and decided to ‘stop doing’ sooner.

I still like to run before I learn to walk, but now I have learned to add a step in between those two things: PAUSE.

Pause and ask myself “Is this sprint going to move the needle forward that I have committed to focus on?”

If the answer is “no,” then it goes on the ‘stop doing’ list.

If FOCUS is your goal for 2019, I hope you will consider creating a ‘stop doing’ list too and say ‘no’ to some amazing opportunities so you can make space for the ‘right’ opportunities to come your way.

Here’s to making 2019 the best year yet!

If getting more visibility for yourself or your business is on your 2019 'to do' list, check out Imposter to Influencer. The only group program that teaches you how to build your thought leadership and get featured in the media by becoming your own publicist. It's great for coaches, consultants, and service-based entrepreneurs who want to gain publicity without hiring an agency.

What You Need To Know When Making An Important Decision

Here are 5 steps you should go through before making any important decisions so you can avoid regretting your decision later and you can try to avoid learning things 'the hard way'.

Antonio Damasio is seen here during his TEDtalk on  The Quest to Understand Consciousness   (Photo Credit: TED)

Antonio Damasio is seen here during his TEDtalk on The Quest to Understand Consciousness (Photo Credit: TED)

As much as you would like to believe you are a very logical person and you do what is best for your business based on facts and data, your emotions also play an important role in decision making even if you think you are not an emotional person.

In his book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio discusses one of his most well-known cases: a successful businessman, loving father, and husband whose life fell apart after he underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor. The surgery did not affect his IQ, but it did affect the part of his brain that controls emotions. After his surgery he struggled to make decisions, and as a result lost everything.

Damasio’s groundbreaking research proves that emotions are very closely tied to thought and reasoning, especially when our decisions involve social or personal matters.

As a society when we describe someone as “emotional” it is often a criticism of an individual’s judgment, when in fact we need our emotions as guides to help us make the right decisions for us. This societal belief about emotions has made us perceive them as a bad thing and has created a culture where we ignore negative feelings, sweep them under the rug, and feel ashamed if we have to go to therapy to help us get through a rough patch. That shame and embarrassment is holding us back from using our emotions (both the good and the bad) to consciously guide our decision making process.

Here are the steps I walk my clients through when they are faced with an important (and oftentimes life-changing) decision:

1.    Pause.

This is perhaps the most difficult one for the successful, ambitious, high-profile individual who thrives on crossing things off a to-do list and making things happen. It can feel even more uncomfortable than the emotion itself, but by the time they get to the point where they are ready to make a decision and react to the trigger, they are always glad they waited because their decision often changes as they go through the next steps.

2.    Notice the emotion.

Once you get over the discomfort of feeling impatient and uneasy, lean in to the emotion. Notice what it feels like and where in your body you are feeling it. You know that saying, “trust your gut”? This is what it is referring to. Usually a gut feeling is a warning that you are supposed to stop and maybe not go through with the decision you are about to make.

Remember a time where you may have felt this feeling before. We store memories in our mind so we can access them when we are faced with similar situations in the future. If you have felt this before, it might remind you of a situation where you may or may not have made the right decision in the past.

If you haven’t felt this before then it may be triggering the part of your brain that is signaling something dangerous is happening and you may feel like you need to fight (or get angry) and run away (or reject the idea).

3.    Collect more information.

Now that you have identified the emotion, tried to process what it is trying to tell you, and paused to reassure your mind that you are not in immediate danger, you can breathe. Think about the possible outcomes of this situation. It can be helpful to write them down.

If you are deciding between two options, write down the pros and cons of each of them. Then ask yourself what specifically you are hoping to achieve with each possible decision. Looking at the options, determine whether or not either or both of those decisions could get you to that specific outcome.

If you need help coming up with the possible options here, it can be helpful to confide in someone who has either been through what you are going through in the past and ask them how they resolved it, or to confide in a trusted confidante who can help you remove bias from the situation.

4.    Acknowledge your belief system.

Whether you know it or not, your emotions are reflecting your internal belief system to you. When something makes you feel uneasy it is because there is a part of you that is in conflict with that decision. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “For what purpose do I want to make this decision?” to check in and see if your decision is aligned with your beliefs.

5.    Weigh your options.

Take all of the information you have collected both rationally and emotionally to evaluate your options. Sometimes assigning a value to each of the pros on your list in number 3 can also help you quantify your decision if you still do not know which is the appropriate decision for you.

Are you looking for a trusted confidante to help you work through a difficult decision? Click here to find out how you can work with Tara.