The Secret to Getting Everything in Place: a short guide to stalling

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I have so many conversations with people that are waiting to have everything just right before they start something. They want to launch a big project or pursue a deeper and more meaningful impact, but they won’t begin. And, worse yet, I’m as guilty as every one of them. It doesn’t happen on every project— it’s just the big ones. The ones that are really scary. The ones that give you butterflies when you think about them. The ones that are connected in some way to your hope and your desire to make an impact.

Here’s how it can look for me (file under: “my favorite excuses for stalling”):

  • I have a continual and unquenchable thirst for the right tools. I want to have every tool that I could ever need to do something well before I start it. I catch myself thinking, “if I just had a better this or that, I would start!”
  • I want to have a schedule that is spacious. I dream about having tons of time to perfect something before I make it public. I imagine spacious hours in an inspiring space with sunlight streaming in (apparently I could add good weather and a new house to my “tool list” above).
  • I want to know everything I could possibly know before I begin. So, I read about it. In fact, I want to take in far more information than I have the capacity to consume. I am addicted to the library. More often than not books I check out to learn about some subject will sit on my shelf unread until I return them, which is (incidentally) also a great way to support your local library — sooner or later I don’t return them on time and have to pay fines.
  • I want to mitigate all risks. I want to know every possible chance of failing and have a plan to address it before I begin. I want to be 100% sure that I will succeed (which is impossible if the task at hand is really worth pursuing).

Some of these reasons are better than others, but most of them are variations on a theme. That theme is stalling. I’m waiting and hoping that inspiration will hit, that success will come, and I want to be sure of it all before I commit.

I am scared of committing. Committing means that I have to finish.

And finishing means that what I’m doing may or may not be as good as I hope. I’m afraid to fail and I’m afraid of my own disappointment in the outcome.

Here’s some honest truth: the reason I actually got this blog launched in a timely manner is because my lovely friend Lacy from A Sacred Journey told asked me to write a guest post for her. I didn’t want to guest post without a blog for people to learn more about what I do. So, I pulled some late nights and launched this blog. And that’s the short story of how this blog came to be (go stop in and thank Lacy for me).

I’m curious: how do you stall when you’re on the verge of attempting something great?

What excuses do you make and how many of them are legitimate?

If we are honest with ourselves (which is quite difficult), there’s always something that we can do right now. Not in the spring. Not after your big project at your job. Not when you know all the right things.

Sometime you will just have to start. Sometimes it’s like pulling off a bandage— it’s painful and you may loose a few hairs in the process, but it just has to happen.

The secret to getting everything in place is not to. Start now. Worry later.

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

There Are 8 Comments On This Post.

  1. Mallory

    “The secret to getting everything in place is not to.”
    i love that line.

    also, i love the photo you chose for this.

    finally, i stall by making TEENY TINY decisions into GREAT BIG deals. it’s so paralyzing, but if you’re looking to stall, that route works wonders!

    • Thanks Mallory! I bet your routine can really buy you some time 😉 Way to be aware of it.

  2. Brian Russell

    “Productive procrastination” is my secret weapon but I know it has gone terribly wrong when I’ve dusted my baseboards.

    • Productive is helpful to a point, but I see what you mean about it going wrong. You may be the only person I know who has actually dusted baseboards.

  3. Jen Nielsen

    Great post Dan. I think I will echo Brian Russell’s “productive procrastination”. I get all kinds of incredible things taken care of–that are super important–when I am feeling squeamish about moving forward with that actually important project. I draw the line at dusting the baseboards, though.

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