Building Courage and Taking Action
June 22, 2023
Drat! I turned the page on my wall calendar and realized that I was moving a big “to do” forward – once again – as another month went by. There are three training programs I have taken over the past eighteen months that each have just one or two assignments remaining for me to complete them… what is getting in the way of my “just doing it?” I have both positive and negative motivation to finish – ranging from how these courses help me increase my artfulness as a coach to internal conflict and even shame that I haven’t held true to my value of following through yet.
As a Clarity Tilt, with Courage in the bottom of my Tilt Stack, it takes frequent self-reflection to consider where I am slow to act, why, and how to bring myself back into balance.
In this case, I attribute this lack of completion to a few reasons:
- Saying “yes” to too many things (both professionally and personally) and
- My tendency towards perfectionism, which leads to
- Feeling like I need to have a two-three hour block of time to concentrate on each tardy assignment (which, thanks to saying “yes” so much, is hard to come by).
What a tangled web! These barriers are all examples of overusing my primary quadrants of Humanity and Wisdom.
Saying “yes” to too many things is coming from the Humanity quadrant - wanting to please others and be liked. Perfectionism comes from the Wisdom quadrant, where I want to be seen as credible, and therefore, the need to understand everything is in the way of understanding “enough.” Of course, the irony is that the cost of inaction is potential damage to both my relationships and my credibility!
So, now that I notice that I’m in this space of overusing my Clarity strengths, what do I do?
With Humanity as my top quadrant, if I’m not mindful, I can let others determine what I do and focus on, all in search of harmony and a sense of belonging. When I am aware of this, my simple “fix” is to set and maintain boundaries. As I recently heard, “No’ is a complete sentence.” And while that feels a bit harsh, I also know that I can say, “not yet” if it’s truly something I’m interested in. It also helps if I focus on my values I’m honoring by saying ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ – what am I able to say ‘yes’ to because I have said ‘no’ to this latest distraction? What am I making time for? What am I valuing more than I am valuing this invitation? Boundaries are necessary to maintain balance. Inevitably, when I feel scattered and feel a lack of focus, it is because I have let my healthy boundaries slip.
My hack for addressing perfectionism is to adopt an experimental mindset. Instead of making sure everything is “just so” before moving forward, I take the approach of, “Hey, let’s try it, and if it doesn’t work, it’s not failure; it’s just data… and then I can pivot” (I’m looking at you for this inspiration, Impact True Tilt friends)! This is embracing a bias for action, instead of a bias for perfection. Have you heard the saying, “Perfection is the enemy of the good?” In this case, “Perfection is the enemy of the DONE!”
To support this mindset, I need to focus on what I CAN do. Stephen Covey introduced the Circle of Influence and Circle of Concern model in his classic book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it is part of Habit 1; Be Proactive. This model is simple – there are two circles, one inside the other. The larger circle is the Circle of Concern, and it includes everything that impacts (and concerns) us. The smaller, interior circle is the Circle of Influence, which includes things we can do. For example, if the weather is in our Circle of Concern (we can’t control it, but it impacts us), checking the weather forecast and bringing an umbrella if there is a chance of rain is in our Circle of Influence. The beautiful thing about this model is that, while we can never eliminate the Circle of Concern, we can make it smaller simply by focusing our time and energy on our Circle of Influence. Covey calls the Circle of Influence the Circle of Proactivity. My natural first focus as a Clarity True Tilt is the Circle of Concern (what about the unknowns? What about all the ways this could go wrong?), and I have found great power in focusing on the Circle of Influence. In this case, what is it I can do to dedicate time to completing these assignments? I find brainstorming ideas energizes me and spurs me to action.
Lastly, one of the classes I DID finish over the last year (hooray!) was a neuroscience class from The Neuroscience School. In that class, we learned about BJ Fogg’s approach of Tiny Habits*. The idea is to identify a tiny action you can take that will help you build a desired habit, and to tie that action to a daily routine or occurrence. Want to build a new habit of flossing your teeth everyday? Start with the intention of flossing just one tooth after brushing. The next day, two teeth! This is based in the neuroscience of motivation – much less motivation is required to floss one tooth versus all your teeth, thereby making success easier… and success builds momentum. Often it is just getting started that is hardest for me, so focusing on the smallest possible next step helps me get over inertia. Focusing on the smallest possible next step also alleviates the need for a two-three hour block of time to make any progress.
So, will I be successful in completing these courses before the next page in my wall calendar? That’s my goal… and, even if I’m not quite finished, I’m certain I will be further along than I am today!
*Interested in trying out the Tiny Habits approach? There is free 5-day program at tinyhabits.com.