If you're anything like most people, you probably have some things in your life right now that you’d love to do but simply can’t until you’ve fixed whatever problem’s standing between you doing it. Right?
I you’re not entirely sure what I mean, here’s a shitload of examples from real people I know who are currently in such a situation:
- “I really want to eat healthy, but first I gotta move out because I can’t eat what I want as long as I live with my parents.”
- “I really want to become smoother with the ladies but first I gotta get myself a six-pack and become the most confident motherfucker who ever walked the earth.”
- “I want to meditate but first I gotta find a quiet place entirely for myself where no one ever comes around to disturb me.”
- “I want to make friends and get a job instead of being lonely, but first I gotta move to another city because the people here suck.”
- “I want to become a marketer but first I gotta get my degree.”
- “I want to start a business but first I gotta get myself a top-notch website that looks impressive and impeccable.”
- “I want to start improving people’s lives for a living but first I gotta fix every single area where I still need help myself.”
Oh wait, that last person was actually myself 😀
If you look at that list, what do all these have in common?
They are simply not true.
I’m not saying the things you believe you need to do first won’t actually help you in a way. But they are not part of the necessary conditions for making it possible.
For example, let’s have a look at the complete list of everything you need to be able to eat healthy:
- Healthy food
- A mouth
Notice that “permission from your parents” or “a place of your own” are not part of the conditions to make that possible at all. Just like having a degree is no necessary condition for learning marketing or getting in shape is no requirement for getting a girlfriend/boyfriend.
If people can travel the world with no money, I’m sure you can start eating healthy without having to kill your parents, right? :p
Why then, can we become so strongly convinced that these first-I-gotta's are an essential requirement for whatever you want to be possible?
Because our mind creates them for us to deny the fact that we’re actually afraid to do the things we want to do, or to fail at them. On a subconscious level we want things to stay the same as long as they are not so extreme we can’t stand them anymore.
So in short, your brain literally invents imaginary barriers between you and the goal that seem totally real, to prevent you from taking any action that might disrupt the current balance in your life because you are afraid of what might happen after that change.
And your brain is a master at these insidious tricks, even making you believe you stopped to doing it when you’re still doing it.
For example, you could read the above, realize the first-I-gotta’s in your life are all manifestations of your fears and decide boldly and confidently to “no longer let fear rule your life from now on”.
The next day you proceed to make a list of every fear you have that you can identify and write out exactly how you are going to tackle them one by one until you came, saw , conquered and became completely fearless.
Sounds like a courageous and worthwhile plan if you’re brave enough, right?
Except that you just said to yourself “first I gotta make a plan”. So the very thing that made you believe you were taking action, was still the same fear putting more obstacles in between you and the real action. It will also probably make you feel as if the list is never complete and you need to identify all sorts of different fears holding you back when in fact you could just scratch ‘em all and replace them with one:
“I am afraid of something happening that would produce an outcome I might not be able to handle.”
Now let’s have a quick look at a personal example from my life where I ignored my first-I-gotta and see what positive or negative effects it had.
When I started a band years ago I should’ve waited and told myself “First I gotta learn to play guitar.” , “First I gotta learn how the ‘big guys’ write songs.” or “First I gotta get a facelift, tighter pants and a popular haircut because that’s what music is all about.”
But instead we just tried to do it anyway. We wrote and released some pretty crappy songs at first. We also wrote some cool songs that no one really listened to because the performance or production quality was pretty hard to listen to.
Did a lot of people hold negative opinions about us?
I guess, I don’t know. Those people usually don’t tell you unless you’re Justin Bieber.
We also played a whole lot of terrible shows, but at least we took action. And even those largely flawed actions helped us gain somewhat of a following. So now that we finally released an album we’re genuinely proud of, at least there were some people waiting for it instead of having to start at level zero 🙂
On the flip side, what would have happened if I had been smart enough not to risk a bad first impression and waited until I was good enough at playing guitar/singing/writing?
Well, truth be told: I’d still be waiting 😉
Whenever you catch yourself thinking “first I gotta X, then I’ll finally be able to do Y like I really want to”, realize that no matter how motivated it makes you feel to start doing Y, and no matter how proactive or productive it makes you think you are: The whole thing is just fear disguised as motivation.
You can dip your toes in the pool a million times to check the temperature, but that won’t make you more fit to swim.
The only thing that can actually help you do that, is simply jumping into the water.
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