Way back in cave person days, the most important instinct was survival, and the “fight flight freeze” part of the brain was well worked and consistently activated to make sure that you were able to get away from any big scary animal wanting to eat you or perhaps someone else’s club coming down on your head.
Unfortunately, even in modern times when you have a fully developed reasoning part of your brain, the survival part still kicks in when you feel like you’re “under attack” and that can sometimes lead to “freeze” or being stuck.
This can happen when you decide you really want to do something (go for a job that’s a big promotion, speak in front of a large audience, perform on stage) but you’re nervous about it. Those nerves can turn into something bigger and your brain tells you “survive at all costs”!
Surviving at all costs can look like procrastinating and self-sabotage. Maybe you keep putting something off and telling yourself “I’ll do it on the weekend” and then the weekend comes and you say “well hey I deserve a break, I’ll do it next week” and so on. Perhaps you wait until after the deadline and tell yourself “well, I can’t do anything about it now” or “I probably wouldn’t have been any good at it anyway”. It also looks like saying to yourself or to anyone who will agree with you “that’s way too expensive for me, I am not spending money on that, I can do it myself”. Except that you don’t ever end up doing it.
The first thing to do when this happens is to simply acknowledge to yourself what is going on. Note that you are feeling anxious and worried about the outcome. It’s normal to worry that you are going to put in a lot of effort and you may not get the outcome you wanted. You can’t control the outcome but you can control what you do to try and get there.
Break things down into really small steps. Even one step can be broken down even smaller. Don’t focus on the big picture, just look at the very first thing in front of you.
Start where you are. You don’t have to start from the start, your first step may be different from somebody else’s first step. That’s okay. Starting is started.
Ask for help. Say out loud “I really want to do this but I am having a lot of trouble starting. Can anyone help me”? It can be hard to reach out for help, we often don’t want people to know that we are struggling. But if you work in a helping profession it’s important that you learn to ask for help for yourself as well.
Set yourself daily intentions, jot down a few notes as soon as you wake up, and take a few minutes to reflect at the end of the day which of those intentions you have managed to achieve. It doesn’t matter if you set 3 and you achieved one. One is better than none.
And go easy on yourself. It may sound like a cliché but talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend or a colleague or a client. Encouragement is just as important for you as it is for anyone else.
You can get stuck when you’re striving to achieve something because putting yourself out there means being seen and being seen means that if you make a mistake, you won’t be the only one who knows about it. But everyone makes mistakes and doing so isn’t indicative of yourself worth. It’s just a part of being human.
Yes, it can be scary when you’re doing something outside of your comfort zone but when you acknowledge what is happening, separate the outcome from yourself worth and open up to others for support, you’ll find you can start moving again and moving again takes you just that bit closer to your goal.