You Never Feel Ready For The Changes That Matter
If you’re the unicorn who feels always feels total confidence in the wisdom of your actions, then this isn’t for you (but teach me your secret, please).
For everyone else this piece can help you:
understand why you feel so uncertain,
figure out what to do to trust yourself more, and
give yourself the right nudge (or kick in the ass) to make the change happen.
I’m not typically one for rules, but it’s important as you go through this process to keep one rule in mind. This is a rule you must follow if you want to make any progress. If you want to get anywhere, this rule is your compass. Unless you find a better rule, this rule is Square One, and it’s what you should return to whenever you get overwhelmed.
Pick A Direction, And Get Moving
Even (no, especially) when you aren’t totally certain, you need to pick a direction, and get moving.
I know this is a scary step, and the “What if’s” will grow like weeds.
What if I’m not sure? What if I change my mind? What if I’m not ready? What if it’s the wrong direction? What if my back hurts? What if I’m tired? What if Mercury is in retrograde? What if my fortune teller told me something different?
It doesn’t matter. Pick a direction, and get moving.
Because you’ll only ever confirm or negate those “What if’s” by getting yourself in motion.
Imagine it this way: those “What if’s” live in the darkness beyond the campfire. They make a noise every now and then. Until you start moving and investigate there’s no way to know if the rustling you hear is a squirrel, the breeze, a tiger, or a sasquatch. Sticking your head in the sand or thinking about every possible outcome doesn’t do you nearly as much good as grabbing a damn torch and shining a light into that darkness.
The truth is: you only understand the world by moving through it.
In the world of cognitive science this process is called “cognition through enaction.” It means that your mind makes sense of the world through sensory information which is perceived by your body. The way to understand the world more fully is to engage with the world more directly. Waiting for perfect certainty goes against your very physiology! Every step you take gives you a new flood of sensory information, a more up-to-date map of the world.
Maybe you find out that it was the wrong step. Maybe you find out that the step was better than you ever imagined. You only know for certain when you take that step.
We have a tendency to confuse the timescale of certainty. We wait to make a move until we have total certainty, as if you can ever be sure of anything that’s in the future. We think we’re supposed to have certainty in advance of action. Not gonna happen. The only thing you can ever hope to be sure of is what has happened already.
We must fumble through the darkness and uncertainty of the world around us. We only make the path by walking it. Don’t wait for the path to reveal itself to you. Pick a direction, and ask yourself: what’s the smallest possible step I could take toward that aim?
What’s At Stake?
If you wait, you will die - slowly, through the accumulation of petty resentment and missed opportunities. You will die if you wait because the world does not wait. It turns onward whether you’re ready or not. Of course when you pick a direction and get moving, you risk making a wrong move. And yet you must risk. With that attempt you may fail, but what other choice do you have?
Better to be here and bruised and bloody than to fade away altogether.
And I have a caveat for you. If you’re afraid to take that step and are tempted to stay put and more or less comfortably fade away, know this: that’s not a neutral choice.
It’s not zero. It’s a negative.
When you choose to turn away from the world and fade, it’s a burden on those who love you and a very real loss for them. It’s a failure to actualize your potential for good in the world. It’s NOT neutral. Your blurring into nothing is a loss for the whole world. You cannot sacrifice the person you could be for the sake of your current comfort.
Yes, You’ll Fail
So you fail. So what?
You get frustrated. You shake your fist and say “Curse that son of a bitch for telling me to make moves!” You feel inadequate, and guess what: maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t yet adequate. Maybe you haven’t yet learned how to get yourself together in such a way that you can make that change happen. Great!
In that case you have a choice:
A) You can look within yourself for untapped resources and bring them to life. You can make more of your unfolding potential manifest within the world to support the change you want to make. Or…
B) You go on manipulating your environment, trying to bend reality to fit your — now quite painfully apparent — inadequacies.
Guess which option has better legs.
You’ll only succeed in bending the world so much before it rips you to shreds. Far better to face the little death of your personal weaknesses head on. Voluntarily approaching them trips an entirely different set of responses within your nervous system than having those threats thrown in your lap to deal with. You actually get braver and more capable when you choose to approach those weaknesses. Yes, it will be uncomfortable, but you’ll have an infinitely better chance of making it out alive.
Look, you can engage with the world, or you can wait for it to engage with you. You have a choice in how it goes, but if you do not make that choice, it will be made for you (and not in your favor).
Drop a comment below with the direction you’re committed to heading, and let’s keep the conversation going.