Sooner or later everyone gets stuck…
Some of us in an endless loop of mind numbing sameness. We’re riding the carousel of life, but the thought of stepping off while that carousel is set in motion is terrifying.
We know that where we are is not where we’d like to be just as certainly as we know that doing the same things we’ve always done, the same way we’ve always done them can only result in getting what we’ve always gotten.
Some of us are locked in place – frozen in time and space – afraid to move. We know that where we are and what we’ve got isn’t working… And, yet the fear of attempting something new, stepping out of the darkness into the light, is greater than the pain we experience when we fail to act.
Some of us know what we have to do: what we must do in order to accomplish our goals and realize our dreams, just as some of us may even know how to get it done. And, yet, we remain paralyzed…
We know… We know what’s good for us. We know what isn’t. And, yet, we’re stuck…
I’ve dealt with change and changing technology for almost fifty years: changes that have forced me to step off one carousel on to another, forced me to break the Inertia of Rest and leap from comfort to chaos, from the familiar to the unknown, onto that carousel regardless of how fast it may have been moving.
I’ve made New Year’s Resolutions I haven’t kept, started diets that haven’t lasted, implemented programs that languished, projects that were never finished and made promises – mostly to myself – I never kept. I beat myself up mercilessly for the inability to move forward until I felt compelled to do something about. So, do something I did!
I dived deep into what has currently come to be know as “The Knowing Doing Gap” until I finally surfaced with some answers that made sense… at least, to me. I’ve published it in the trade publication I write for, shared it with other shop owners in seminars across the country and now I’d like to offer it to all of you.
To begin we need to understand how we process everything we’re exposed to. How we take non-related bits and pieces of data – discreet, objective facts – and, somehow manage to organize that data into streams of information that make sense to us. As we expand the flow of information into recognizable and useful patterns: as we apply what we’ve learned – our experience, context and values – we’re able to transform information into knowledge. Knowledge can and should lead to wisdom which can then be collectively applied to create action – the concept that started this discussion in the firs
This process of moving from foundation to pinnacle is best visualized as a kind of Knowledge Pyramid.
Once you can see how data becomes information, information: knowledge; and, then, how knowledge can lead to wisdom and then action, you can move from a pyramid to a funnel.
The funnel represents what marketers refer to as “AIDA: The Hierarchy of Readiness.” You may not be aware of it, but I’ll bet you’ve been victimized by it more than once and it works something like this.
No one does anything unless or until they are made aware. Without awareness whatever product or service, principle or concept we can conceive is non-existent – at least, it is to us.
Once aware, we can decide whether or not whatever it is we have just been exposed to is of interest to us. If it is, we are likely to desire more: more knowledge, more information, more access, more availability… And, that desire will more than likely result in some kind of an action, generally the action the marketer or advertiser that created the awareness in the first place would like you to take.
Why begin a discussion of getting yourself unstuck with a journey into epistemology or marketing? Because understanding the psychology that operates beneath the surface causing us to get stuck in the first place is the first step in getting ourselves unstuck!
The problem with awareness, interest and desire is that is can often lead to frustration: a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems. Someone has something you want but haven’t been able to acquire. You have too much of something you don’t want: something your friends and neighbors don’t have to contend with.
Hopefully, that frustration will fuel the need for more and better information: a quest for better answers and not the hopelessness of surrender.
The problem is that there has never been a moment in time where information and knowledge have been more abundant: more readily accessible.
If that’s the case, what’s the problem?
We get stuck because knowing is a function of the cognitive mind: the thinking brain!
While getting anything done: the motivation to act, is a result of the full cooperation and involvement of the emotional command center of the brain – the amygdale (ah-mig´dah-lah). There is only one problem with eliciting the involvement and cooperation of the amygdale and that is it is the pre-historic brain – what Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors, refers to as “the Lizard Brain!”
It is the tiny command center that exists at the tip of the spinal column and is responsible for such basic and involuntary reactions as fear, fight, flight and procreation.
It is incapable of conscious thought and has no capacity for language. In other words, it is solely and strictly all about feeling.
If you’re looking for a powerful metaphor to help you better understand the interplay between the frontal cortex, the thinking brain that developed long after we climbed out of the ooze and the amygdale, the pre-historic brain; there is none better than the image of an elephant and its rider.
Despite what most of us would like to believe, the cerebral cortex: the area of the brain responsible for just about all of the higher order intellectual functions we too often take for granted like language, information processing and reason can be thought of as the Rider. The Rider believes – or, would like to believe – he or she is in charge, capable of driving the Elephant where the Rider needs it to go.
The Rider is all about reason… The Elephant, all about emotion and motivation… One represents the Rational Self: the other, the Emotional Self.
The Emotional Self is instinctive, reactive, unable to communicate through language, focused on pain, pleasure and procreation, seeks immediate gratification and is reliably unreliable!
The Rational Self is analytical and loves to plan. It needs to believe it is in complete control of the Elephant and fully capable of managing its irrational reactions and behaviors. Unfortunately, however, the planner is too often paralyzed by ‘analysis paralysis,’ and when that happens both the Elephant and the Rider are stuck…
The Rider knows we should eat more responsibly, exercise regularly, avoid stress and should not smoke.
The Elephant is drawn to comfort and tied to the chemicals released the moment you even look at a glazed donut or a chocolate éclair. It has no interest in reason and as a result cannot be moved by data, information, knowledge or wisdom! And, since the Elephant is exponentially larger and more powerful, the Rider is headed wherever the Elephant is likely to go!
To get unstuck: to move from thought to action, the Rider and the Elephant must agree! The destination must be absolutely clear. The Rider must have a reason and the Elephant will require motivation. And, did I mention that the path must remain unobstructed at all times?
The bottom line is: Doing something actually requires doing something!
In order to break the Inertia of Rest you must take action even if taking action moves you in what might seem is the wrong direction. The reason is simple, it’s easier to correct your course than it is to move away from the dock! It’s easier to change the Elephant’s direction than it is to get it to take that first step.
Learning from what might outwardly be considered a mistake is ultimately better than remaining paralyzed and doing nothing at all.
The greatest obstacle to change and getting unstuck is fear: the fear of failure, the fear of ridicule, the fear of loss, the fear of success! But, fear is irrational… It belongs to the amygdale: the Lizard Brain! But, you cannot and should not let the fear of failure, ridicule, loss or success paralyze you…
Chances are, you’ve failed before and experienced all or many of those fears without mortal consequence. In other words, you’ve lived to fail again!
What we all should be terrified of is the fear of doing nothing at all: the fear of falling without the strength or character to get up again.
The secret is to resist the urge to fall prey to “Analysis Paralysis.” Collect as much data as you can. Allow it to simmer until it begins to look and taste like information. Turn that information into knowledge and that knowledge into wisdom and then use that wisdom to choose the right course of action. And, once the decision to act is made… don’t look back!
If you are continually waiting for the best information to help you make the best possible decision in order to take the best possible action you are likely to be waiting a long time: possibly forever! Sooner or later someone will have to pull the trigger and jump!
If you’ve done the best you could and made the best decision possible with the information available at that moment in time, let it go!
The past has passed… There is no going back. There is nothing you or anyone else can do to change it. Just learn from it and move on…
Stop waiting for the “best time” to take action, begin a project, stop smoking, change your lifestyle, start saving, begin a new workout regimen. The best time to do any of that is right now!
Steve Mariucci, former Head Football Coach of the San Francisco 49’ers, was quoted saying that he never wore a wristwatch… “Because I know it’s always NOW… And, NOW is the best time to do anything!”
Don’t fall backward into the trap of doing what you’ve always done!
Change is uncomfortable and damned hard work!
Doing what you’ve always done the same way you’ve always done it can only get you one thing: the same result you’ve experienced in the past. If that was good enough you would have abandoned this article long ago!
There will always be a perfectly good reason to wait (see: Analysis Paralysis). The more challenging and risky the course of action… the more unfamiliar the territory, the easier it will be to for you to find a reason to hesitate.
That isn’t a license to charge off into the sunset without doing your due diligence. Gather all the information you need, consider all the options available, list all the possible consequences: both known and unforeseen. And, then decide on a course of action and get started!
Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the willingness to take action despite that fear… Consequently, the opposite of courage is surrender and both fear and surrender belong to the Lizard!
Realistically, there is no right time to confront your fears and the reality of life is such that doing anything you’ve never done before will be terrifying, which is probably why you’ve never considered doing it before!
The only way to overcome your fears is to confront and then embrace them…
The importance of how we communicate with ourselves cannot be overstated. It is doubtful that anyone has ever taken action based upon a belief alone. Beliefs live in the realm of the Rider’s frontal cortex. They are intellectual: based on reason and grounded in information and in and of themselves, that is exactly where they will remain.
In the context of this discussion, a belief is not the same thing as a decision. Believing something is no guarantee a desired action or even an undesired reaction will result unless or until the decision to take action upon that belief manifests itself.
The magic occurs when data and information are transformed into knowledge and wisdom, that’s when BELIEFS are transformed into DECISIONS. When and only when decisions are made… will things begin to happen!
Fortunately, or unfortunately, Aesop – the famous Greek story-teller was right when he suggested that: “When all is said and done more is said than done…”
TIPS TO CLOSE THE GAP BETWEEN KNOWING & DOING
Take action and remember that taking action actually requires that an action be taken!
And, try to remember that talking about doing something is not the same thing as actually doing it (And, neither is planning)!
Take inventory of where you are.
Create a ‘snapshot’ of where you are so you can establish mile-markers along your route to recognize and celebrate just how far you’ve come!
Give up on perfection… It’s over-rated!
There are times when perfection can become the enemy of greatness.
When you’re stuck, desperately trying to get unstuck, achieving good even though it might be the enemy of great, just may be good enough to get you moving!
Pick Something: Anything
But, not more than three (3) things!
Prioritize them in their order of importance… to you. And, then pick the one likely to result in the greatest and most immediate return so you can begin building on your successes!
Find an “Accountability Partner”
Find someone to hold you accountable for your decisions, someone who will poke, prod and even ridicule you if or when you fail to act. The only thing more effective than having the right accountability partner would be to post your decisions publically, creating an army of accountability partners, so the fear of disappointing them is greater than the fear of getting started!
This is one of my personal favorites, perhaps because I’ve never been very good at looking off into the distant future and then creating a plan that begins with that inevitable ‘first step.’
The only thing that has ever worked for me is focusing on that vision of a better future and then working backwards to document the steps that would have to be taken in order for that vision to become reality.
They may sound like the same thing, but they’re not! One starts at the beginning and requires that we establish what that ‘first step’ should be and the other begins at the end, which makes establishing what the ‘first step’ had to be in order to get where you’re going a lot easier !
Don’t beat yourself up if at first you are unsuccessful! Everybody trips… Everyone stumbles… And, just about everyone fails from time to time!
Most millionaires have declared bankruptcy more than once…
The old adage is true: Nothing ventured, nothing gained! And, nothing is ever ventured without risk!
Be kind to yourself! Don’t obsess! Don’t play the ‘Blame Game.’ Don’t stress out!
Just stop and say: “What can I learn from this…” And, then, move on!
Practice: Do – Fail – Fix!
This is another one of my personal favorites…
Take action: do something… Anything! Even if it’s wrong…
If it works, great! Keep doing it until it quits providing the desired result.
If it doesn’t, stop doing it! Determine what’s broken: why it isn’t working and then come up with a plan to improvise, adapt and overcome! In other words, a plan to FIX it and then lather, rinse, repeat!
I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring this topic as much as I have. The only thing that would make it more enjoyable would be your participation: your reaction and comments. So, resist the urge to wait or let it go till you have time. Get “unstuck” and drop me a line!
I’m really interested in what you have to say!
 Switch: How To Change When Change is Really Hard, Chip & Dan Heath