How to push the “reset” button to get clarity and take action.
For the last couple of years I have used a MacBook Pro as my main computer. Although I enjoy it most of the time, I occasionally must deal with the “spinning beach ball of death”—a colored wheel that indicates when the computer is busy. Once in a great while the beach ball keeps spinning and the computer freezes up. (PC’s have these issues also.) In those moments you know the computer is paralyzed, and the only option is to reboot it.
Have you ever felt that way about your life? I have. There are times when I’m overwhelmed with tasks, responsibilities, goals, anxieties, and the general “stuff” of life. You have probably felt this way, too. As men, we have a natural tendency to retreat to our “man cave” and get as far away from our problems as possible. But that doesn’t help the situation—it only makes it worse.
When you’re feeling paralyzed and overwhelmed by life, it’s time for a reboot. It’s fine to go into your man cave, but don’t go there to wallow in self-pity and hope your problems will go away. Instead, follow these four steps to take a quick assessment of your life and push the reset button.
Step #1: Write down all the stuff in your head.
When you feel paralyzed about your direction in life, you’ve got to deal with the negative emotions and clutter that’s swimming around inside your head. Grab a piece of paper (or use a computer) and write down all the “stuff” floating around in there.
Write down your anxieties, fears, and failures. Write down your hopes and dreams. Write down the tasks you need to accomplish. Write about the anxiety and stress you feel. Get it all out on paper.
When you start to name the things that are paralyzing you, they don’t feel so intimidating. Often times, this exercise alone will make you feel better and get you moving again.
2. Revisit, or create, your goals.
Your goals are like a north star that guides how you spend your time and resources. Your goals determine your actions and direction in life.
If you’ve already created your goals, then revisit them. Revisiting your goals will help you eliminate options and clarify what you need to do next.
If you haven’t created your goals, this is a great time to think about what you want to accomplish in different areas of your life. The important thing isn’t what goal-setting system you use (although I like this approach). What really matters is that you go through the process of establishing your goals, figuring out the “why” behind each of them, and breaking them down into manageable steps.
Just be sure to keep it simple. The more complicated your goals are, the less likely you’ll be to follow through on them.
3. Define the next step you should take.
Once you’ve revisited your goals or gone through a goal-setting process for the first time, figure out what’s most important. You can’t do everything right now. If you try to accomplish too much at once, or try to make too many changes in your life, you’ll get overwhelmed and frustrated. Then you’ll be right back where you started.
What is the very next step you need to take? Often times, it’s the very thing you’re avoiding. For instance, if one of your goals is to get out of debt and the credit card company keeps calling, deal with the problem head-on.
Likewise, if you have no energy and want to lose weight, don’t worry about all the changes you need to make in your life. Just worry about making small changes over the next day or two.
Define the very next step, no matter how small it is, and then take action. This will give you a feeling of accomplishment and motivate you to keep going.Realize your emotions are lying to you.
4. Realize that your emotions are lying to you.
When you feel paralyzed and don’t know what to do, it’s easy to wallow in your negative emotions. Your fear, tensions, and anxiety are sending you messages like this: “You can’t do this. You’re going to fail. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re scared.”
You must realize that your emotions are lying to you. The way you feel about something is not always a good indication about the action you should take. Your urges and desires can get you into trouble pretty quickly.
If your feelings say, “Eat this huge piece of chocolate cake,” or “Have an affair with that beautiful women,” we know those wants or emotions are not helpful, and hopefully we ignore those impulses.
But for some reason, we listen more carefully to those voices when we feel fearful of stretching ourselves or reaching for new goals. When you’re trying to make progress in your life, your emotions will tell you lies in order to minimize risk. But if you want to make progress in your life and become a better man, it’s going to involve the risk of doing things you haven’t done before and getting out of your comfort zone.
If you feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by life, now is a great to follow these four steps. You can choose to stay where you are, or you can choose to do a reboot and enjoy the benefits of moving forward with confidence and decisive action.
I know which direction I’m headed. How about you?
Photo: Flickr/Robert King
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