Stuck in your head?

Have a ton of ideas but can’t get a project off the ground? Perpetually frustrated with your personal and professional development? Continually underwhelmed with your progress and where you’re at with your career?

Sometimes the biggest barrier can be yourself.

(If you’ve got perfection tendencies, I’m talking to you). Often you can get more done by thinking differently and doing more.

Here’s a few tips which might help you get on with achieving great things.

ACCEPT YOUr BIGGEST FEAR: FAILURE

You’re not obsessed with doing the best possible job possible because you’re humble or wanting to create great work. You’re obsessed with it because you’re afraid of what you have to lose if you fail.

Fear of failure is the #1 reason for paralysis in any area of your life. In a work sense, fear is one of the biggest contributors to a scared, unproductive, anxious and under performing workforce. People who are afraid are less likely to:

  • ask for help /support to achieve the best possible result
  • create their best possible work — and work they are proud of
  • keep perspective, motivation and optimism throughout the project
  • feel calm and confident (eg they will feel anxious and, well, paralysed by fear of failure)
  • show the work to peers for feedback to create a better result (fear of judgement)

Accept you’ll fail and you’ll feel liberated. In fact — plan to fail. That way you’re more inclined to look at every possible solution for the task at hand. Ask yourself regularly before, during and after a project:

  • what resources do I need to make the project happen?
  • what skill gaps are there in the project?
  • what sort of people do I need to support my weaknesses? (Perfectionists love to obsess over their weaknesses.)

LOSE THE EGO

If you’re a perfectionist it’s highly likely you’re obsessed with being the best possible version of you. But here’s the thing …

No one thinks about you as much as you do. Seriously. Get out of your head and into that work. It’ll distract you from overthinking the task at hand and set the wheels in motion to create.

If you’re paralysed by thoughts of being the best at what you do — consider rephrasing the language you’re using internally (see point 4). For example, find someone in your industry you respect and admire. Consider what ways you can learn from them to improve yourself — instead of being the best at something. (The getting better at stuff comes next).

If you get out of your head, and into your work, you’ll be less likely to be distracted by other peoples perception of your success — it’ll be all about celebrating your personal successes, big or small. And to do that …

BREAK IT DOWN

Big tasks can be daunting when you’re not sure how you’re going to get there. Breaking down large tasks helps the mind compartmentalise so its able to operate on small tasks that contribute to the bigger goal.

Small, achievable, consistent steps lead to results.

If you’ve got a project or goal that isn’t moving or feel a little stuck, break it down into all the steps that need to help to get there.

Then … get on with it. The more you worry about not doing it, the more time goes past when you’re not doing well, anything.

TALK NICELY TO YOURSELF

If you spend more time thinking about how to achieve great things instead ofhow you won’t you’ll get a hell of a lot more done.

Happy people get more done. They are motivated, believe they can achieve their goal and create small steps to achieve it. Happy people talk to themselves — nicely, that is.

Psychology Info puts it pretty well: “negative self-talk prevents us from solving problems, and can contribute to a variety of psychological problems, including depression. When faced with a problem, if our self-talk is negative, it can immobilize us.”

If you’re finding you’re not getting a lot done, you might want to check your self talk. Do you put yourself down regularly either to yourself or others? Do you hear yourself say any of the following in your mind from time to time?

‘I could never do that.’

‘I don’t have enough experience to….’

‘I can’t believe I did that.’

‘I’m such an idiot’

‘I’m so useless at…’

ENOUGH. It serves no purpose other than getting in your way.

GET OUT YOUR NOTEPAD

For one week take note of how many times negative thoughts come into your mind, and what they are.

Then review the list after a week. Are there any reoccurring themes in these thoughts? Are they the same every time? What types of words and phrases are you finding yourself say / think? Write down the limiting thoughts and beliefs that are behind these thoughts.

QUANTIFY THE THOUGHT AND SOLUTION

What we want to do here is identify the thought, quantify the real issue behind the insult then go about finding solutions so you can get on with getting more done.

Here’s how this works:

‘I’ll never get a better job’

Quantifying the thought: what constitutes a ‘better’ job? In what industry? What is stopping you from getting that job? What skills and experience do you need to get the job of your dreams?

Proposed solution: could you ask what opportunities exist in your organisation for professional development? Perhaps there’s a course you could look into that would give you the skills and experience? Are there people in your network who are doing what you’d love to be doing? Could you ask them for coffee to pick their brains to ask how they got to where they are now?

‘I’m so useless’

Quantifier questions: err… useless at what exactly? At ‘life’ in general? Or was it one time you forgot your keys? Was that a reasonable assumption to make about yourself? I mean, you likely got through life until now by being slightly not useless, right?

Solution: next time when you’re about to say the U word — you could say ‘whoops forgot my keys’ instead of putting yourself down.

‘I’m so unfit’

Quantifier: where’s your fitness at now? What’s stopping you from getting fit? Where would you like to be?

Solution: you could talk to a few people in your network who are into fitness and ask for their suggestions. You could visit your local gym and ask for a free look around. You ask a buddy if they’d like to go for a walk with you this weekend. You could put in your diary once a week when you feel you could commit to getting fit and healthy — either through a yoga class, run, or taking the dog for a longer walk than usual. You could … do anything except call yourself sooo unfit, right?

TRACK ACHIEVEMENTS - BIG OR SMALL

An athlete told me recently she loves weightlifting because it’s trackable. She can see incremental improvements over time which motivates her to continue.

If you’re not tracking what you’re doing, it’s easy to feel like you’re not getting anywhere. This is particularly pertinent if you’ve been working on a project for a long, long time and the end result doesn’t appear to be getting any closer to completion.

If you’ve stalled on a project, get out a note pad, and write down everything you’ve achieved to date (big and small, tangible progress and subtle wins such as getting people on board with your project or negotiating a good deal with a supplier). You might be surprised at how far you’ve come and the gaps will become clear to get on with the rest of the project.

If you’re in the midst of a project, review at regular intervals (short project, every week; long project, fortnightly; life long goals — every month). How far have you progressed since last check in? What needs to happen to get to the end goal?

By doing something as simple as tracking your achievements (not a list of activities — a list of achievements) — you’re more likely to impress yourself — and if you’re a perfectionist — that’s the biggest achievement of all (da doom).

Further reading

15 Common Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive Factors Affecting Depression