Learning to minimize internal distractions and take action.

by Carolyn Paris

A famous saying, often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, goes, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Yet it’s so much easier and more comfortable to be lazy, to live in the predictable zone. It may not be fun, powerful, or satisfying, but it is familiar.

When I was in elementary school, I was placed in the “special” reading class. In college, I switched my major nearly every semester for four years. (As it turns out, it’s difficult to get a degree while avoiding math and foreign languages.) Throughout my life, I’ve told myself a story about my abilities in reading, writing, and learning. And I’ve been afraid to stretch in these areas, afraid I’d be “found out,” be exposed, make a mistake, or not know the answer.

I now find myself on the next growth edge with my business. I’m being asked to be a speaker, do a workshop, facilitate groups — all things that are part of my business, things that I do well. But I feel the tension in my body. My chest feels tight and I take a deep breath to focus. I wander around, avoiding my inner voices. I straighten my office, grab a snack, run an errand. I do anything to avoid taking positive action like writing this article or practicing my presentation.

Thankfully, something lovely is shifting within me. Because I’ve worked diligently on transforming the “me I’m afraid I am” to the “me I choose to be,” I am now aware of my fears and defense mechanisms. The first thing I do is simply notice. “OK,” I tell myself, “I’m getting that tightness in my chest, and now I want to go get a snack.” I stop, take several deep breaths, and notice and acknowledge the behavior as an old pattern. By noticing, without judgment, I now have a choice: follow the old way of being or live, breathe, and move into my new plan.

Once I’ve grounded myself with my breath, I simply take action towards my goal. I know what the most important things are for me to do — what author Stephen Covey called the “big rocks.” Interestingly, staying in action actually releases my tension and worry. When I need a break or my inspiration wanes, I move to the “little rocks” (errands, phone calls, to-do lists) until I’m rested, and then I move back to the “big rocks.” We can manage our lives and minimize our fears on a daily basis. I’ve learned that our actions create our future.

Consider putting on paper how you would like to design your life. List the “big rocks” to get you there. Then make a lazy list — those things that keep you and your life predictable. Find a friend, coach, or mentor to share your vision for your future, and ask them to be supportive and hold you accountable. Being your best in life is not easy; if it were, everyone would be doing it. But it’s worth it. Believe in your dreams. Make powerful choices. Stay in action.


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