Ask Celes – Why is it So Difficult for Me to Take Action?

Back view of a guy at the sea

Hi Celes, I’m grateful that I found your blog. It has helped me a lot in terms of perspective and practical tips.

I’ve been through a lot in the past 6 months. I used to work and reside in Brunei, but recently moved back to Penang (my home). After moving and job hunting, I found a job and have been working for the past 3 months. Sad to say, I have not getting ahead in my own business plans.

I realize that I can’t do this alone and I need to seek help. I have some questions for you: 1) How could you be so sure of yourself when you quit your job to pursue your passion? 2) Didn’t you have any concerns when starting your business? 3) And why is it so difficult for me to take action?

~ Victor

Hi Victor! Firstly, I’ve shared about my career change journey before in this post: The Day I Quit My Job to Pursue My Passion: 6 Tips on When to Quit Your Job. That post shares the very steps I took between deciding to quit my job and making my passion happen, so I recommend to read that first. It actually fully answers your first 2 questions.

In short, I had 2 main concerns prior to starting my business (which are related to each other): (1) What if things don’t take off? and (2) What if I don’t earn any money? As I shared in Ask Celes – Can Everyone Be Successful in Starting Their Business? and How Long Would You Spend to Teach Your (Future) Baby to Walk, Before Giving Up?, I realized that as long as I never gave up, didn’t set a hard deadline for my goal, and kept assessing my progress and adapting my actions, then it was virtually impossible to fail. There was then nothing to fear, and with that I quit my job to focus on progressing in my purpose mission, one step at a time. The rest was history.

Having said that, I believe the real question in your letter isn’t in the first 2 questions. Rather, what you really want to know is, “Why is it so difficult for me to take action?

A one-million-dollar question that I break down in Anti-Procrastination Program. Because there are so many variables to procrastination, it’s impossible to sum everything up in one post. Rather, I encourage you to check out Anti-Procrastination Program which is my complete system to busting procrastination, while I’ll provide some broad directions to get started.

1) Understand Your Inner Resistance

Procrastination is often the result of inner resistance that offset personal motivation/interest, something that I cover in Module 2 of AP. Since you are feeling such great inertia about your goal, my first recommendation is to understand why you are procrastinating. In AP, I share that procrastination is the symptom, not the problem. Many people procrastinate, but the procrastination is for different reasons. You need to first identify what is the reason you are procrastinating to be able to tackle it productively.

I recommend you journal on this question, “What’s blocking me from taking action?” Write down the answers that come out of it. Try to go as deep as you can by consistently asking “Why?” List as many reasons as possible, until you get down to the root (or roots) behind your inaction.

Different people have different reasons for procrastination. For example,

  • For Alyssa, a past participant of AP course, she was property hunting for 2 years prior without taking action. After realizing her fear of changing property market conditions was stopping her from acting, she went right out there and bought the property she had been eyeing for some time. In just one week.
  • For participant Craig, he had been procrastinating on his professional qualification for 3 years. Through the course, he realized that he was procrastinating as he had feared that the work would be too painful and that he wouldn’t be able to manage once he started (among other reasons). After addressing these incorrect beliefs, he completed 20% of the qualification in 4 weeks, whereas the initial 20% (prior to taking the course) took 3 years!!
  • For participant Annette, she was procrastinating on completing her masters degree for years. A big reason was fear of failure: she was worried that she would invest all this money into her masters and not get it in the end. After addressing this root reason (along with other things in AP course), she completed her research, submitted her dissertation, and subsequently got her Masters degree early this year!
    Email from Anti-Procrastination Course Participant Annette, getting a Masters in Software Engineering

    Annette’s victory email to me early this year

For you, your reasons could be different. Perhaps your goal to start a business just isn’t as important to you as you think, in which case you need to rethink your goal. Perhaps your goal is too intimidating, in which case it’s about adjusting it so that it more accurately reflects your aspiration. Perhaps you have some latent fears, in which case it’s about uncovering these fears and addressing them. Or it could be some other reason.

Without understanding what exactly is causing your procrastination, it’s difficult to address it at all. It’s like trying to grab and punch air — basically expending a lot of energy to do nothing. You need to first unravel the issues causing your hesitance, inertia, to identify concrete steps to tackle it.

Example: Procrastinating on Celes.TV

For myself, I used to procrastinate on creating videos for Celes.TV. For long-time readers of PE, you may recall that I was posting video interviews quite regularly in early 2013. However, things slowed down after that as I would post content videos maybe once every 3–6 months. This was disappointing because I really wanted to build my video channel.

For a while, I just put the production off without thinking about it. However, after 2 years of barely any new videos, I realized I needed to look into it. I stopped to seriously reflect about why I was procrastinating on my channel, and I realized I was “fed up” with the sheer amount of work it was taking to create a video:

  1. The potential interviewees I contacted often wouldn’t reply. Among the ones who replied, some would be irresponsible — first confirming the interview, and then “disappearing” later. Just confirming guests and arranging appointments was like a full-time job in itself.
  2. Because I’m not a video crew nor video production expert, I experienced a lot of problems in pre-production (especially when filming in a foreign environment) which caused several already recorded episodes to be scrapped. These were episodes where I had actually confirmed the guest, secured an appointment, and traveled to record the episode. Needless to say, this was a big waste of time.
  3. Each interview you see on Celes.TV actually takes 3 to 4 hours to film (including traveling and setup time) and 4–5 days to edit. At least.

Realizing it wasn’t sustainable to do videos this way, I realized there could only be 2 ways out. The first was to hire an assistant to help me schedule interviews and edit the videos. However, this wasn’t practical as I’m still experimenting with video and I’m not ready to dedicate this much resource into it. The second way was to streamline my production process, which was what I chose to do.

  1. Firstly, I scrapped the idea of interviews and focused on single-person videos, at least until my channel grows bigger. Video production is already time consuming as it is, and involving guests increases the effort taken by 3X to 4X. My priority, at least at first, should be to build content quickly vs. getting stuck in production hell
  2. Secondly, I realized a lot of my time was spent in editing, especially cutting out “uhm”s, “ahhs”, and bad takes. I realized that having a teleprompter would help me dramatically cut down editing time and improve my video quality, so I got one. (True enough, it has been very helpful!)
  3. Finally, I created a permanent video recording setup in my work room, with the light stands, tripods, and audio equipment all set up. Whenever it’s time to record an episode, I change my clothes, put some makeup on, press some buttons, and get rolling.

Video recording setup for Celes.TV

My video recording setup for Celes.TV

Celes.TV Recording

How it looks like on film. This is from my latest episode, 5 Tips to Deal with Criticism. :)

While recording and producing a quality episode still takes quite a lot of time (2 days to write my script, 15 minutes for recording, and 2–3 days for editing), at least the process is much smoother. I’m averaging an episode every 2–3 weeks, and if the videos continue to get good views and feedback, I definitely plan to create more. :) (Check out Celes.TV for my videos!)

2) Figure Why You Want this Goal

My second tip for you, Victor, is to figure out what you really want. What do you really want? Is it really to start your online business? If so, why exactly do you want it? For what purpose?

These are questions related to finding your WHY, something I cover in Module 1 of AP. This is critical because unless (1) you’re crystal clear of your WHY, why you TRULY TRULY want this goal and (2) you have a 10/10 WHY where the fire is burning so strong and you absolutely canNOT wait to take action right away, it’s quite likely that you’ll experience a lot of start-stop, start-stop inertia as you proceed with your goal. And that ain’t fun at all. Whatever action you could take would likely amount to little results (think of it as pushing a boulder up the hill; you need to apply huge, overwhelming force to get it past the initial hump); and whatever little results you eventually get probably wouldn’t be enough to inspire/motivate you to continue to act. Which would eventually cause the goal to fizzle out.

Let’s take the example of blogging. These days, there are just so many blogs that it’s not even funny. Do you know that there are nearly 50,000 blogs created every DAY? This adds to 18.3 NEW million blogs a year. Once again, we’re just talking about NEW blogs that are created, not even existing blogs. Needless to say, most of these blogs never do succeed. That’s because while it’s easy to start an online business because the barriers to entry are practically zero, the barriers to success are exceedingly high. Without that real passion for your work, substantial skills in your craft, and the commitment to your goal, it’s practically impossible to have any chance of success. And these 3 factors are all tied to having a strong WHY: with a strong WHY, you’ll naturally be passionate about what you’re doing. This passion will be what inspires you to continually take action and improve yourself, hence building your skills to your highest level. This WHY is also what will help you see through the toughest obstacles in your goal — and, believe me, there’ll be tons as you get down to grunt work.

For me, what helped me build my business to where it is today is, without a doubt, being clear about my WHY. In my case, my WHY for my business is tied to my life purpose to help others grow (though it doesn’t have to be for you). Because I knew my WHY for running PE, it helped me push through whatever that stood between me and my goal, be it naysayers, critics, gaps in technological know-how, 

3) Align Your Environment With This Goal

Last but not least, create an environment in favor of your goal. This includes

  1. creating a flow environment that helps you take action constantly
  2. cutting away (or distancing from) people who drain you
  3. creating a support network that supports you in your goal
  4. carving out a routine that inspires you to act

I go in-depth into these in Module 5: Create Your Power Environment and Module 6: Create Your Productivity Ritual of Anti-Procrastination Program.

Articles-wise, you can get started with these:

In Ending…

The above are just 3 broad tips to get you started. For the deep-dive into procrastination, work through the modules in Anti-Procrastination Program, which is my one-stop program to eradicating procrastination.

Victor, I believe you have every power in you to create the business of your dreams. It’s up to you to figure out if this is what you want to do, and if so, how you should best take action. We have a few good decades ahead of us in our life, so let’s make that count. In the meantime, I’ll be here writing articles every week, supporting you in your goals.


This is part of the Ask Celes section. If you have a question to ask me, proceed to the Ask Celes page. Check out past Ask Celes questions here.

Images: Guy at sea, Celes.TV pictures © Personal Excellence