A Trick for Getting Where You Want to Be, Faster

October 10, 2012 · 16 comments

Feel like you’re not moving fast enough toward your goals? Like you’re stagnant, struggling against the current?

Here’s a counter-intuitive strategy that will help you make progress faster than ever before.

Taking steps in the right direction.

Taking steps in the right direction.

Stop waiting until you’re ready

We all tend to wait until we feel ready to make a change, or even take steps toward that change. We wait until our blog is perfect before announcing it to the world. We wait until we have just the right amount of experience before applying to that dream job. We wait until we’ve figured out exactly how to structure our fees before taking on freelance clients.

But here’s what you should do instead: make future commitments you’re not ready for to force yourself to be ready when the date rolls around.

Take my good friend Charles, for example. (That’s not really his name.) He wants a new job, but he doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do. So I suggested he meet over coffee with people who are working in fields he might consider. That would help him both learn about what their jobs entail and also make contacts in the right industries.

While Charles agreed that would be a good move, he wanted to think more about his goals before meeting with anyone, so he’d be prepared to ask good questions. He wanted to wait until he felt ready to set up the meetings.

Here’s what I told him: “Set up the meetings now, and you’ll be ready by the time they get here.”

Because when you set a deadline with strings attached, you WILL reach it. You won’t go to that meeting unprepared; instead, you’ll make the time to get ready. Sure, you might not feel as prepared as you could be, but here’s the thing: you probably never will.

That’s right, you’ll probably NEVER feel ready to take that first (or last) step toward a hard-to-reach goal. That’s why so many of us procrastinate when it comes to finding a new job or starting a business or taking some other leap in life. There’s always one more thing you can do, another contact you could make, more money you could save.

Yet if you wait for everything to be in place, you’ll never do it.

Of course, committing to something before you feel ready is totally counter-intuitive, not to mention scary. Those of us who are responsible always prepare before making a change. But if you use this strategy, you WILL prepare. You’ll simply prepare sooner and faster than you would have otherwise.

There’s a fine line between pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and not putting the pieces in place before you leap. Because you DO want the essential pieces to be in place; you DO want to set yourself up for success. But the timing to do something big will never be perfect. You’ll never know everything you want to know, you’ll never have all the experience you’d like to have, and you’ll certainly never have enough money. Sometimes pushing yourself to find faster, more creative ways to span those gaps is the only way you’ll ever get where you want to be.

One more example of how this tactic will work in your favor

For months now, I’ve wanted to start offering free webinars to my community. But I kept putting it off to work on client projects, write newsletters, complete guest blog posts and more. Plus, the task was intimidating. I’ve presented during plenty of webinars hosted by other people, but I’ve never had to oversee all the technical logistics myself, and it seemed like a lot to figure out. It didn’t HAVE to get done, so it was never a priority.

But then I realized I had to commit if I really wanted this to happen. So I set a date for my first webinar (about how to create and sell your first ebook) and invited people to start signing up. That means I HAVE to be ready by the scheduled webinar date, which is now just two weeks away. No excuses.

Because of that self-imposed deadline, I’ve already researched and selected webinar software, scheduled a time to practice with my team and created the presentation I’ll give at the event. Once 100 people are expecting you to deliver, you’ll no doubt get off your butt and give them something awesome.

I took the same approach with my career break, buying my flights to Africa before I was ready to leave, knowing I’d then have to hustle to reach that goal on time. And people who create products have been known to do this, too, telling their audience about an upcoming ebook or course before it’s actually ready, partly so they can get feedback on what potential buyers would want to see in that product.

So now I ask you: What big goal have you been putting off? How can you force yourself to move toward it by setting a deadline with strings attached?

What can you commit to doing that you’re not yet ready for?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan October 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Yes — this is such an important and useful idea!
Susan recently posted…Kayaking Into The Wild: 4 Days in the Alaskan RainforestMy Profile

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Alexis Grant October 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Thanks, Susan 🙂

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Laura October 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Thank you! I needed to hear this today! My biggest thing is I am waiting until I’m no longer scared to do 1 major to-do item. I can guess when that will happen. :/ I am going to have to get over it and just DO it.
Laura recently posted…August/September Book ReviewsMy Profile

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Alexis Grant October 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Laura — How can you self-impose a deadline that will force you to take baby steps? YOU CAN DO IT!

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Andi of My Beautiful Adventures October 11, 2012 at 9:35 am

I have had this attitude my entire life and it sure had gotten me far! Fake it till you make it. 🙂

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Micah Guitarte October 23, 2012 at 4:07 am

It’s true. While waiting for the “perfect time” to be able to do something worthwhile, that perfect time might not come to pass if I don’t make a step forward. It’s like having to work on school projects when one sees the deadline in the horizon – ideas come quicker then.
Thanks for this great post – I had been struggling with having to act on an idea and your post woke me up.

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Abbie April 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm

That’s a really good point – I know I work way better under deadline pressure than if I have all the time in the world!

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Conor Neill December 16, 2013 at 9:36 am

Simple, but so true. Knowing what to do is less than 1% of what matters… Knowing how to get yourself to execute is 99.9% – and public commitment is a big way of forcing myself to live up to my best version of myself 😉

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Catherine Shefski May 19, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Good advice! (I wonder if all the “waiting until you’re ready” is from years of being supervised by parents, teachers, and bosses — having someone else tell you what to do, tell you when you’re ready and give you deadlines. )
Catherine Shefski recently posted…Resume Makeover for the Seasoned Job HunterMy Profile

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Thomas James July 7, 2015 at 9:02 am

Agree. Everyone must have the patience and fully prepared in all the risk they would take in into their chosen goal in life. This are good ways to start on, Cheers!

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