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Three Excuses Paralyzing You From Action: And How To Beat Them

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
- Lao Tzu 

Have you ever played the “just one more lamp post” game?  

If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s how it goes:  

First, you start by running around your neighborhood. 

Then, you get to your personal best – the furthest you’ve run. Or at least, at some point you’ll start to get close.  

Here’s where it get’s interesting. Your legs will feel tired, and you’ll be breathing hard, and you’ll start thinking “Hey, that’s pretty good for today – maybe it’s time to turn around?”

But you don’t turn around. Instead, a little voice inside your head says…

“How about we just go one more lamp post?” 

And so you think to yourself, well, one more lamp post, that’s not so bad, I can do that…

And then if you make that, you do another.  And another.

After all – it’s just one more lamp post.

What’s The Point of Lamposts?

Ok, so you may be asking yourself: what does this lamp post game have to do with excuses paralyzing me from taking action?

I’ll show you. First, let me give you some background.

If you break down success for accomplishing any goal, it comes down to two key steps:

  • Putting together a plan
  • Taking action to make it happen

So, if you’ve already got goals, and a plan to accomplish them – what’s the one step that’s currently stopping you?  

It’s action.

If we often know what we are supposed to do – then why don’t we take action?  

Here’s three of the top excuses I’ve heard from clients – and how you can beat them.  

I’ll give you a hint: it all ties back to the lamppost game.

Excuse #1: Procrastination

You know how this goes – you get caught up in planning, in metawork, in thinking about all the possible things that might go wrong, and about all the different contingencies that you want to plan for.  

And then there’s just one more thing you want to do, or it’s not the right time, or a football game is on…

Let’s just call it what it is - procrastination.  Plain old fashioned putting off action.  

If you’re in this situation, I recommend you stop wasting time coming up with all the reasons you shouldn’t get started.  

Instead, think of one specific thing you can do – even if things aren’t just right, even if you don’t have all the answers, even if you don’t have enough time.

Solution: Just take the first step.  Just one lamppost.

Excuse #2: Overwhelm

If you think your next step is too large, or too difficult, then I think you’ll enjoy this solution courtesy of David Allen:  instead of a project, think in terms of next actions.  

So instead of trying to “Write Chapter for Novel” (which is a large task that may make you nervous), you instead write down the precise next action that you can take – as granular as necessary.  

So instead of “Write Chapter” it might just be “Write single paragraph: description of living room to start chapter.”  

Solution:  Make it a manageable first step. Just like when I’m running, I don’t tell myself another mile - just one more lamp post.

Excuse #3: Fear

Finally, often I’ve seen people hesitate because of fear.

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of not being good enough.

Fear of failure.

Here’s the thing though – you don’t have to commit to accomplishing everything today.  

Instead, just commit to doing one small thing today. Take action, and just get moving in the right direction.

And give yourself permission to fail – nobody will see you, nobody will know. And anyway, it’s not permanent – you can always try a different approach tomorrow.

Solution: Accept that temporary failure is a possibility, and try one small thing anyway.  It’s ok if you don’t make it – after all, it’s just one lamppost.

Take One Step

So, if you’ve been stuck on one of your goals, I urge you to ask yourself:  

What’s the one step you need to take?  

And why haven’t you?

Remember – you don’t have to change the world all at once.

It’s just one step.

It’s just one lamppost.

Take Action Today

You don’t have to go it alone. If you like what you’ve seen so far, your next step might be to join me in my advanced training program.  Take a moment to read the details about my course The Action Solution and see if it’s something you’d be interested in. It is the result of decades of experience, and hundreds of hours of making dreams a reality for real people – just like you.

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Further Reading

How Many Of These Mistakes Hold YOU Back?

7 Reasons Good People Fail

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By Sid Savara
Published February 09th 2014
4.7 Stars
2627 votes