Category Archives: getting unstuck

Redefining Success

Image: Spiral Staircase

A few weeks ago, I was experiencing a serious lack of motivation.

There was a lot that contributed to it…health stuff (which showed up as fatigue, depression and anxiety), family stuff and financial stuff.

I was trying to gear up to open registration for the next group of projectizers in Project Prowess (my program to help you choose, start and finish projects), but the work just wasn’t getting done. It felt as if I was trying to swim through molasses.

I started and deleted upwards of ten posts. Even if I was lucky enough to experience that initial burst of inspiration about an idea, somewhere between brain and fingers-on-keyboard it would all go horribly wrong.

I did my best to be kind to my body, because I know that pushing doesn’t always work. And having a hidden agenda behind the self-care often cancels out the benefit.

I’d do okay for a day, sometime three, but then I’d start freaking out about how long it had been since I’d done any real work. (And getting to the bottom of what constitutes “real work” is a whole ‘nother blog post.)

After a couple of weeks? I was convinced my motivation was gone forever.

On some level, it felt as though this not-working was becoming a pattern. Or maybe a habit.

But what to do about it?

If I looked at my to-do list and started thinking about all the work I hadn’t been doing and could have been doing over the last couple of weeks, it was an instant panic-fest. So that’s definitely what not to do.

I had to cut myself a lot of slack. But this was a different kind of slack – not the “poor thing, why don’t you go lie on the fainting couch for a while” kind.

I had to let go of any attachment to how much output I would have. Over and over again. Yet I needed to push myself (gently) to start working more.

If I only got as far as opening the admin panel of my site (which is where I write my posts) before I got distracted by Twitter or Facebook, that was okay.

And if I only wrote a sentence or two before I hit refresh on my inbox. Or *cough* played a game of solitaire, that was okay, too.

Every time I lost focus, I had a choice to make:

Would I collapse into the distraction, subsequent frustration and sense of having failed, or would I bring myself back to my work and try to take one more step?

I couldn’t expect to just crank out hundreds of words (or to plow through my task list) all at once, because it had been weeks since I’d done that.

Success is what YOU say it is

I get to decide what counts at success.

So do you.

We all hear tons of messages, day in and day out, about how our productivity should look. And often the message is that we should be kicking ass and taking names. Or just doing it or getting over it.

But in the end, it’s up to us.

The Rub

If you’ve been hanging out here for a while, you know I’m not a fan of pushing yourself to the point where it essentially becomes a violent act. Our bodies and souls need nourishment, and often lack of motivation and fatigue are messages that we need to replenish.

But there’s this other element of commitment that’s absolutely necessary in the creation process.

Sometimes commitment means not working, even when it feels like you’ll fall behind.
But sometimes it looks an awful lot like “forcing” yourself to work.

And therein lies the rub.

Only you can know whether you need to flex your commitment muscles by working when you don’t feel like it or by resting when you have lots to do.

That’s the dance we have to do as entrepreneurs…what works for us today may not be what we need tomorrow or next week.

There’s no formula to follow other than know thyself.

And that, as with so many other things, is a process.

How about you?

How do you define success? And is your definition truly yours, or did it come from someone else?

I designed Project Prowess to teach you the foundational skills that will allow you to get shit done while customizing the creation process for YOU.

I know first-hand that cookie cutter-solutions almost never work. We’re all unique, so what are the chances that someone else’s formula will work for you?

Project Prowess will teach you how to get more projects done in ways that fit who you are and how you work. The program starts March 8, so I hope you’ll check it out!

Image credit: edvvc

When Pushing Through Doesn’t Work

I’m stuck.

And I’ve been stuck now for, like, two weeks.

I’m supposed to be finalizing the details for the new thing I’m creating for you. Really, I expected to have it announced to the Shmorian Society already, but it feels like I’m not even close.

Who knows what triggered the stuckness to begin with, but I know what’s not helping:

Lamenting how far behind schedule I am.
Thinking about this project as something that Must Be Successful.
Refusing to step away from the project even when nothing’s working.

Hello, expectations

I’ve got lots of expectations about how this project should be progressing and how I should feel while working on it.

And focusing on all the ways reality isn’t matching up with those expectations is just making me more stuck (and downright miserable).

The truth

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. And that doesn’t mean I should scrap the project.

Nor does it mean there’s something wrong with me. (Or you, if you’re at a similar place with your project.)

Stuck happens. And stuck dissolves.

The stuckness isn’t me. Or you.

What’s really needed

Trust that there is time. Trust that things will all work out in the end, even if they don’t look the way I wanted them to. Trust that the outcome is just as likely to be better than expected (so stop assuming the worst).

To remember that nothing is wasted. And that I get to define “success” as it relates to this project.

To connect with the essence of the project. Because I don’t control the outcome, but I can do my best to create something that will help my people.

To do as much as I’m able to nourish myself. Because if I’m not getting work done, filling my well is a much better use of my time than falling into the abyss that is social media and the interwebs.

To remind myself of everything I have accomplished. And creating the Better Taster program for Project Prowess is no small feat. (There’s still time to join if you’d like help with your project.)

What’s really, REALLY needed: Safety

All of those things that I ought to be doing instead of arguing with reality are actually all about one thing: Creating Safety.

Some part of me is feeling unsafe and believes that completing this project is dangerous somehow.

It doesn’t really matter whether I’m afraid of succeeding or failing or things changing, but somehow I have to restore a sense of safety.

But there’s a catch.

When you’re stuck and need to create safety for yourself, it has to be done with no hidden agenda.

If I do it for the purpose of making more progress, it won’t work.

Project stuckness is kind of like a hermit crab that’s pinching you. Or maybe it’s pinching the project. Either way, it frakking hurts.

The crab starts pinching and won’t let go until it feels safe. And if you move or try to pull it off too soon, it will start pinching harder.

Creating safety for you and your project can’t be conditional on making progress or getting unstuck.

The scared parts of yourself are smart enough to know when you care more about getting work done than making sure they feel safe.

They can tell the difference between asking “What do you need?” while being truly open to the answer, and the same question asked when you really only want to hear how to get your project moving again.

I’ve been trying to push through, thinking that if I just push a little harder, for another hour (or four), I’ll break through and the project will start flowing again.

It hasn’t worked.

I’ve lost sleep and I’ve cried and yelled and whined and flopped on the couch to numb out in front of the TV.

I’ve meditated and talked with my Selves and my business and my project and I’m still stuck.

Because deep down I was doing those things because I was trying to get my project back on schedule.

Fuck the schedule, because I want to do this project, but not if it means winding up in anxiety mode every day.

Pushing through didn’t work, so now it’s time to let it go and see what happens.

The Shortest Path

When I’m working with a client, eventually we reach the point of laying out the plan for doing whatever it is they’re wanting to do.

Maybe it’s creating a website. Or setting up an online shop where they can sell their wares. Or launching a service business of some kind.

Before we get into prioritizing and scheduling, we start with some initial brainstorming of the tasks that need to happen.

A real-life hypothetical example

Judy (name and details changed, of course) wants to sell her amazing coconut chocolate chip cookies. She has a secret ingredient that makes her cookies unfuckingbelievably delicious. So delicious that people experience a rush of endorphins every time they eat one of her cookies.

In fact, she wants to bring world peace by increasing endorphin levels worldwide.

These are the kinds of tasks I usually hear.

Begin brainstorming (in no particular order):

Find a professional food photographer so the cookies can look their best
Research shopping carts
Set up business bank account
Get a business license
Find an accountant
Buy, download, install and set up Quickbooks
Figure out how to integrate a shopping cart with a website
Set up the website
Choose a domain name
Set up the products in the cart/website along with the pretty pictures
Test the set up
Start telling people about the cookies

The list has the potential to be endless. Can you say instant overwhelm?

Cutting the crap

There are three big concepts* I’ve learned about doing stuff that involves putting ourselves out there and doing things we’ve never done before.

1. It’s easy to get distracted from just getting started when you’re trying to do everything “right.”
2. Focusing on the distractions will drain your creative energy.
3. Resistance will come up sooner or later.

* Of course, there are more than three big concepts, but these are the three we’re discussing today.

The problem with #1 is that it keeps us in perpetual preparation mode.

And being in perpetual preparation mode leads to #2. Doing the Thing is what energizes us. Use up all your energy doing the Other Crap and you’ll never get back to Doing the Thing.

On top of draining our energy, perpetual preparation also keeps us from addressing any real resistance (see #3).

Yes, those perpetual preparation tasks are part of the resistance, but they’re also decoys.

Real resistance

Usually the real resistance that comes up for me and for my clients sounds more like…

…These cookies aren’t that good.
…How will I ever support myself without a corporate job?
…There’s no way people will ever pay me enough to do something I actually love to do.

Real resistance often has to do with how we value ourselves and our skills. And our beliefs about how the universe works and where our support comes from.

The sooner we can identify and address the real resistance (as opposed to just hanging out with the decoys), the sooner we can do the things we want to do.

Remember Hedgehog Girl? She was the real resistance, while the tweaking and re-tweaking of my website was the decoy. As long as I kept trying to deal with the decoy, I wasn’t giving her what she needed to feel safe and allow me to move forward.

It’s the difference between treating the symptom and treating the cause.

Clearing away the decoys

Here’s a question that will clear away the decoys:

What’s the shortest, simplest path to doing what you want to do?

What Judy wants to do is to raise endorphin levels by selling her cookies.

When you look at the list of brainstormed tasks, how many of them are essential to selling those magical cookies?

Hint: Very few.

When I put on my clarity goggles, here’s what I see as the shortest path:

Get a domain, hosting and install WordPress (excellent help is available if she needs it)
Get a Paypal account
Gather testimonials by sending out some “review batches” to her network
Put testimonials, descriptions and Paypal buttons on the site
Tell people on Twitter and/or Facebook and/or her email network that the cookies are available.
Optional: She could spend a few minutes photographing her cookies with her point-and-shoot camera to see if the pictures are good enough. If not, scrap them.

Judy wants to sell her cookies, right?

With the steps above, she can send people to a website where they can read about the cookies, what other people have experienced by eating them, and they can send her money to get the cookies.

(Technically, she could do it even more simply, but what I’ve listed above strikes a balance between the shortest path and also allowing plenty of room for growth.)

The rest of the brainstormed tasks can come much later, and she can have the experience (and pleasure) of getting more of her cookies into more hands sooner.

But it’s not that simple!

Actually, it is that simple, but it probably doesn’t feel that way.

That feeling of wanting to slam on the brakes when presented with a simple solution? That’s most likely the real resistance – the fears and doubts that come up when it’s time to Do the Thing.

And that’s okay. It’s normal for resistance to come up. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.

The beauty of it is that now you know what you’re dealing with and you can work on addressing the resistance you actually feel.

Some places to start

What do you do once you’ve cleared the decoys and know there’s some real resistance that you need to work with?

First off, be kind to yourself.

Gathering information can be a great place to start:

What do I need to feel safe while moving forward?
What am I afraid will happen if I’m successful?
What if it could be easy (and safe)?
What evidence do I have that I can Trust?

(And a bonus question: What would make it a No-Brainer to move forward? I’ll bet you didn’t know the No-Brainer Scenario technique could be used that way, but that’s one of the examples in my upcoming ebook. Be sure to join the Shmorian Society to be the first to get it.)

How about you?

What are you working on?
What do you notice about decoys that get in the way?
What’s the real resistance underneath?

And most importantly, how can I help?

Blogstipated!

Blogstipated (\ˈblȯg-stə-ˌpā-təd\): The state of being unable to start or complete a blog post despite desire to do so; often accompanied by intense frustration and/or despair; common remedies include writing a meta post about the experience of blogstipation or a post completely unrelated to the regular theme of the blog.

Yep, I’ve been blogstipated.

And I’ve definitely been experiencing the accompanying frustration. Because I feel like there is a post waiting to be written, but I can’t see it yet.

At the encouragement of my writer friend, Kyeli, I’m trying to remedy the situation with a bit of a meta post. Well, I guess it’s also partly an “unrelated” post, because I’m sharing this little pun I threw out on Twitter today, which led to Kyeli’s encouragement.

In search of blog fiber…

I know I’m not the only one who’s blogstipated. So I started wondering about finding bloglaxatives…or blaxatives.

The meta post is a good one to try.

But sometimes just knowing it’s a post can be too much pressure. So if the thought of a meta post or a silly, off-topic post is too much, what about a journaling exercise? One that you never have to show anybody. One that you could burn afterward, if that helps you feel less pressured. Just something to get your pen (or fingers) moving.

So I came up with a few questions. These are the ones I’d ask if someone came to me with a case of blogstipation. Just to see what happens.

I’ve included my own answers.

What would you write about if you didn’t care what people would think or you weren’t trying to make it fit with the rest of your blog? Or weren’t trying to follow any blogging rules?

Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll sound too pushy. Or even too cheery (or – blech – coachy). But if I really weren’t worried about it, I’d probably write…

…a really encouraging post letting people know I believe in them.
…a ranty post that people don’t have to keep doing work that makes them miserable.
…more about the ways I can help people.
…stuff that has no real point, but would allow me to connect with people more.
…more often, because I wasn’t so damn worried about the point.

Describe how your blogstipation feels. Do you feel it emotionally? Physically?

Mostly I feel it emotionally. It’s Urgency again, but instead of “hurry up or you’ll go broke,” it’s “hurry up and write something or all your readers will forget you and find another blog to read.” So it feels anxious. Which means the physical stuff feels like adrenaline.

But it also feels like something is trying to come out (my inner 8-year old is giggling, while my inner fussbudget is apologizing profusely for the unfortunate imagery).

Like there’s a blog post right there, but it’s too foggy for me to grab on to it.

What will happen if you don’t write a post today?

It will just keep getting harder and harder to write one. But it’s tied to all the other stuff that’s been going on – the insomnia and fatigue – so it’s a symbol of all the work I want to do but can’t seem to get done.

At the same time, I can see that, in reality, nothing will happen if I don’t write a post today. Today, tomorrow, next week…it won’t make a huge difference in the end.

What does your blogstipation want you to know?

It’s okay. Things are shifting. Be patient. Your body needs you to take care of it. The blog will be here.

What do you wish God (or someone) would say to you – about your blogstipation or anything else?

That the desires I have to help lots of people in deep, meaningful, radical ways will happen. That I won’t die before I figure out how to do what I want to do. That the world won’t end before it happens. That it’s happening already, even if it doesn’t always look or feel like it.

How about you?

Want to play along by answering these questions? You can answer in the comments, or on your own blog (be sure to comment with a link to your post so we can find it). Or, if you answered privately, which questions were the most enlightening? What question did you wish I had asked?

Also, if you have a favorite blaxative, please share, so we can all add them to our medicine chests.

As always, no advices, please! Blogging is challenging enough without throwing shoulds around.

Returning to Flow

I went hiking a couple days ago. It may have been my last hike between now and, oh, October. (I’ve been living in Phoenix for over 13 years now and I am so over the heat.)

As usual, I did a lot of thinking on the trail.

This time I was pondering the past week and noticing how challenging it was. And how everything just felt heavy and frustrating.

My oh-so-deep thoughts were interrupted, though, because I had reached a turning point on the trail. Was I going to head back toward my car, or was I going to do the “side-loop” that takes me up to the top of the mountain?

I wasn’t quite ready to head back. Plus, with my tendency to pushpushpush, I turned left and started climbing.

It was hot. And my head was starting to hurt. And I was moving much more slowly than usual.

Should I turn back? No, not yet.

My heart was starting to pound. And my headache was getting worse.

And who knows why, exactly, but I remembered Fabeku’s post about staying in the flow rather than fighting for stuff.

Why am I trying to push so hard to get to the top of this (small) mountain?
Isn’t my body making it pretty clear that it’s had enough scrambling in the heat?
So what if I turn back before reaching the top? And who cares if anyone sees me backtracking?

Hey, Shmoria…does any of this sound familiar?

Huh? Ohhhh.

File under: You teach what you need to learn.

For over a week, I’ve been fighting to complete a particular project. I thought it was something I could get done in a couple days, so I may as well just finish it and cross it off my list. But several days in and I was getting tangled up in stuck.

Too many days of fighting, and far from enough flow.

What’s missing?

In my sessions with clients, the first thing we work on together is figuring out what their Shmorian Elements* are – the qualities and values that will help them stay energized as they work. The Elements also provide lots of good information about how to prioritize and choose projects.

When things move from Flow to Fight, usually it’s because a key Element is missing from our work.

In my case, I was trying to turn my recent Shmorian Thing-Finding class into a downloadable product.

Several of my Elements were missing from that.

Creativity – Even though I was planning to add some additional goodies that I would have to create, the majority of the work involved did not feel creative to me at all. Yawn.

Fun – Quite often, I get Fun from the process of creating. But not only was there a lack of Creativity here, there definitely wasn’t enough other Fun stuff to make up for it.

Connection – This one’s the Big One for me. My strongest zing! of Connection comes from working one-on-one with clients. Sharing their a-ha moments and witnessing them go from stuck to unstuck. But even writing blog posts feels more Connection-ish for me than trying to turn a class into a product.

So now what?

Is turning my class into a product a worthwhile project? Absolutely.

But it needs to move a little lower down on the priority list, so that I’m still spending time working on the stuff that nourishes me.

Since two of my big Elements are Connection and Creativity, I would be happier creating a new live class to offer**. And continuing to blog. And making sure people know I’m not booked solid as far as client-work goes.

There are also three things I can do as far as my stuck project is concerned:

1. Break down what’s left into really small pieces, so that when I’m not drained, I can tick off a step here and there. If I feel like it. By spending a few minutes on it each day, it will get done soon enough.

2. Look at the project with fresh eyes and ask myself if the stuck-est parts are even necessary. I know I have a tendency to complicate things.

3. Look for ways to infuse the project with the Elements I need. I need to be a little bit careful here so that I don’t make the project too big (see #2).

However I wind up handling it, as much as possible, I need to enjoy the process. Because the whole point of quitting my job was to be able to do work that I enjoy, not dread.

* Shmorian Elements?!? I’ve been making some changes behind the scenes, but with the excitement of teaching my first class, I didn’t mention it. If you’d like to know what your Elements are so you can work in ways that are best for you, check out my Hire Me page to find out more and set up a free 30 minute chat.

** I’m already working on putting together a class (yay for getting unstuck!). If you want to be sure to hear about it first (this may be a limited-seat offering), please share your contact info here.

How about you?

Are you working on something that feels like more fight than flow?
How do you want that work to feel? What’s missing?
In what ways can you give yourself more of what’s missing?

We can even do some brainstorming in the comments. Let’s get some flow back into your projects!