People who are consistently successful get up and do what needs to be done. They start something. Then they learn from their mistakes, make corrections, and try again. In this process they build momentum and either achieve their goals or something even better than they dreamed.
I’m a big fan of Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books and author of The Success Principles. In his live seminars he demonstrates how those of us who are trapped by worry and anxiety frequently stop ourselves from taking action.
He begins by holding up a hundred-dollar bill and asking if anyone in the audience would like it. Then he waits.
Many raise their hand. Some call out that they want the money. But typically there are only a few people who actually come to the stage to get the money. When they do, he gives it to them and they sit down, a hundred dollars richer for their efforts. Jack then points out that the person with the money did something no one else did—they took the necessary action to get the hundred dollars.
Too many of us think about stepping up and taking action, but then stop ourselves. When he asks the audience why they didn’t just come up and take the bill, the answers are typically:
I didn’t want to look like I wanted or needed it that badly.
I wasn’t sure if you would really give it to me.
I was too far back in the room.
Other people need it more than I do.
I didn’t want to look greedy.
I was afraid I might be doing something wrong and then people would judge me or laugh at me.
I was waiting for further instructions.
How many of these excuses are preventing you from getting on with the things you want to accomplish? How often has part of you wanted to make progress on solving the problem, but another part of you held yourself back, waiting for a better time, waiting for more instructions or concerned that someone might judge you?
Every time a viable action is warranted but you hesitate, delay, or fail to act, you rob yourself of a little bit of life. And you condemn yourself to a life of “coulda,” and “shoulda.”
We spend way too much time waiting for conditions to be just right. We wait for reassurance, inspiration, the right timing, the economy to improve, the kids to leave home, the rain to stop, a clear set of instructions, the alignment of the planets.
I once heard it said that the best time to plant a tree was twenty-five years ago. The second-best time is right now. What, exactly, are you waiting for? Permission? Perfect conditions? Guarantees? They’re not coming. So just go ahead and leap.
We also frequently find ourselves in situations where action is needed, but you don’t have the skills, knowledge, or resources to take that action yourself. You need to ask for help. Which is another stumbling block that keeps so many people stuck in neutral. None of us can do everything alone, and asking for help is a wonderful and valuable skill that the world’s most successful people have mastered.
What do you need help with? Do you need to call someone to ask for information? Do you need to ask to borrow money? Do you need to ask for a recommendation or introduction? Do you need to ask for a job? Do you need to ask for a simple helping hand?
We live in a society that is uncomfortable with asking for help. Which is actually a bit surprising because the vast majority of people are only too happy to help us. Altruism is a natural human instinct. We’re just afraid to ask.
What are we afraid of?
We don’t want to look needy. We don’t want to be judged. We don’t want to feel inferior or beholden. We don’t want to impose on anyone. And the more we hide behind those fears, the less we’re able to accomplish and the more we stay stuck in our narrow little rut.
Challenge yourself today – no, in the next 15 minutes! – to take an action that you’ve been putting off. Ask yourself why you’ve been procrastinating on this; what it is that you’ve been fearing. Looking needy? Being judged?
C’mon! Life’s too short to sit around waiting for the kids to leave home or the sun to come out. Let’s go! Right now!