by Adele Sommers
Have you ever felt so stymied by your choices that every time you stared down at your “personal chessboard of life,” you weren’t sure where you could possibly make a move?
If so, you’re in good company, since that’s where many of us find ourselves at one time or another.
And whether that feeling of being “stuck” relates to business, personal matters, or both, it can serve to encumber our progress. This article discusses two patterns of “situational gridlock,” and what to do about them.
Pattern #1: Worrying Incessantly about the “Perfect” Move
I call this pattern “pondering perfection” because every possibility appears to have potential, yet none seems to stand out as the clearest candidate for action. You may want to be so absolutely, positively sure that you’re heading in the right direction that instead, you experience “analysis paralysis.”
Take Anna’s situation, for instance. She sees a myriad of possibilities for starting a business. Yet without knowing how to identify a business purpose that’s ideally suited to her life passions and strengths, she doesn’t have enough information to make a selection. Every option seems as likely as any other. She’s uncertain of whether to simply try something, because it could be expensive to switch later if her first choice doesn’t work.
Robert, on the other hand, dreads the idea of failure if he picks any direction that doesn’t produce immediate success. His parents had always insisted that he should decide what he wanted to do in life before leaving high school. But Robert is multi-talented with many different interests. Ever since high school, he’s been unable to pinpoint any single direction. Recalling his parents’ constant criticism, he often feels immobilized when faced with choices. For Robert, it’s so much easier to think, plan, and daydream than pursue any learning activity, career, or business venture that might turn out to be “wrong.”
For Anna’s and Robert’s situations, I recommend breaking the situation into much smaller pieces that present little or no risk to try. The first step can involve gathering more information — an extremely powerful action!
Based on what you learn at little or no expense other than your time, you can explore many possibilities.
So, ask yourself the following:
What steps can I take to investigate, study, or “test drive” my interests? Consider conducting some Internet research to become more familiar with the options. If you’re considering a new business, start researching your target audience and learn what competing or comparable businesses have to offer. Whom can I interview, observe, or assist to see what kindles my interest and seems most aligned with my strengths? Consider contacting some of the subject matter experts whose information you read online. Most people would be flattered to answer sincere inquiries about their areas of expertise. Local experts might happily let you observe them in action, and may even endorse your writing an article about your findings. They, or members of professional groups, could become your most supportive advisors or mentors.
Pattern #2: The Desired Move Seems Too Intimidating (or Too Simple)
Are you setting the bar too high in the short term? I firmly believe in identifying a “grand vision” that aligns our life passions with an overarching business idea — one that has the potential to engage us in a very full and satisfying existence over time. But when we set major goals that are so challenging, there is only a small chance of achieving them quickly, we can easily lose enthusiasm unless we plan the process incrementally.
Take Christina’s situation. Her longtime dream is to launch a business that caters to professionals who groom, train, and exercise pets. She foresees the potential for a large-scale operation with international franchises. Her grand vision is so rich and comprehensive that she can visualize every detail.
But because of the size and complexity of her vision, Christina feels intimidated about how to move forward.
Pursuing her dream in its entirety would be very expensive and time-consuming.
On the other hand, pursuing anything less than her grand vision seems too simple, and therefore unworthy.
Can she find a solution to her “all or nothing” dilemma?
In this situation, I suggest a two-pronged approach:
First, develop a “grand vision build-out plan” that has flexible phases or modules. View the plan from a top-down and bottom-up perspective.
Top-down planning can provide the structure for major activities that need to occur. Keep in mind, however, that over time, circumstances, requirements, technology, markets, and other factors can change considerably. That’s why top-down planning doesn’t cement every detail, but acts as a framework.
Bottom-up planning can identify the specific actions you can take today that will move you forward, regardless of what shifts in the future. For example, do you need to develop an Internet presence and start building a subscriber list? Then you could start by creating informational content that will establish your credibility and begin attracting an audience. Also consider conducting surveys, field tests, and/or pilot programs to validate your assumptions about what the audience needs and wants. What you learn will help clarify your grand plan!
Second, build momentum with each small step. Set your expectations fairly low, and each time you achieve a short-term goal, set a new one and continue to let momentum carry you forward. Just as in the game of football, every yard you gain boosts the total score. Taking one step forward — in any direction — will produce satisfying accomplishments that lead to more small steps. By pacing yourself, gaining traction, and developing a rhythm, you’ll have fun instead of turning your dream into an oppressive chore!
In conclusion, taking small, low-risk steps can help you blast through “situational gridlock” and start feeling great about your progress. Instead of fearing failure, see yourself as a researcher running a series of inexpensive experiments. By gathering data, interviewing, observing, planning, and testing ideas incrementally, you’ll create “building blocks,” generate momentum, and lay a solid foundation for success.
Copyright 2007 Adele Sommers
Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the creator of the “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” success program. To learn more about her tools and resources and sign up for other free tips like these, visit her site at http://LearnShareProsper.com