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 perspectives 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 in Penang 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. How could you be so sure of yourself when you quit your job to pursue your passion? Didn’t you have any concerns when starting your business? And why is it so difficult for me to take action?

~ Victor

Hi Victor! Firstly, I recommend you read my recent post, The Day I Quit My Job to Pursue My Passion: 6 Tips on When to Quit Your Job. It answers your first 2 questions to a tee. That post shares the very steps I took between deciding to quit my job and actually making my passion happen, and 6 tips for people who wish to do the same.

I had only 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?, 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.

I suppose others could have other concerns too, like “What if people don’t take me seriously?” or “What if others (loved ones) don’t approve of my goals?”, though these were irrelevant to me. If people didn’t take me seriously because of my age (a 24-year-old becoming a life coach??? HAH!!!!) or they didn’t trust my advice, that was their problem, not mine. My intention was (and still is) to share what I have learned and to help others discover their power from within, not to convince people of anything. As for others / loved ones not approving, I share more about dealing with such scenarios here and here.

Now, let’s get to your real question, which 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, whereas I’ll provide some pointers here for you to get started.

1) Understand Your Reasons for Procrastination

My first recommendation is to understand why you are procrastinating, which is something I tackle in the first 2 modules of Anti-Procrastination Program. You need to ask yourself, “What’s blocking me from taking action?” Because while self-motivation and affirmations can help one act, they can only take you so far. If you want to take constant, sustainable action, then you need to uncover your inner blocks and align them from within.

Different people have different reasons for procrastination. For example:

  • For Alyssa, a past participant of AP course (the live version of APP), 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 in Module 1, 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 feared that the work would be too painful, that he wouldn’t be able to manage once he started. 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!! He is now on track to completing his qualification by the end of this year.
  • 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 getting her masters and not get the degree in the end. After addressing this root reason (along with other things through 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 about your goal, in which case it’s about uncovering these fears and addressing them. Or it could be all 3 reasons meshed together.

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, after that things slowed down as I would post content videos maybe once every 3–6 months. This was definitely not aligned with my goals because I really wanted to build my video channel.

When I looked within, I realized I was quite “fed up” with the work it was taking to create a video. Firstly, there were the potential interviewees I contacted. Often times they wouldn’t reply; some would be quite snotty or irresponsible, first confirming that they wanted to do the interview and then going MIA later. Just confirming guests and arranging appointments was like a full-time job in itself. Secondly, 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 recorded episodes to be scrapped. Thirdly, each 10-min video you see on Celes.TV often took at least an hour to film (not including traveling, setup time) and 4–5 days to edit. If repeated takes were needed (a norm with my perfectionistic tendencies), the time taken would be doubled or tripled.

Realizing it wasn’t sustainable to do videos this way, I revamped my approach. Firstly, I bought a teleprompter so that less editing is needed. Secondly, I scrapped the idea of interviews and focused on single-person videos, at least for now until my channel grows bigger. Video production is already time consuming as it is, and involving guests (especially people I don’t know) increases the effort taken by 3X to 4X. I decided my priority, at least at first, should be to build content quickly vs. getting stuck in production hell. 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 just need to change my clothes, put on some makeup, press some buttons, and then 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. :)

Now, it still takes a fair bit of time to produce an episode (3 days to write the content/script, 15 minutes for the recording only, and 2–3 days for editing), but at least the process is much smoother. I’m averaging an episode every 2–3 weeks apart, 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 What It Is You Really Want

My second tip is to figure out what you really want. I find that many people tend to jump on the bandwagon when they see something taking off (for others). But that doesn’t mean that you should do that. You should do something because you really want to, because it’s something you believe in and you’re passionate about.

For example, in school, the natural goal for students is to aim for straight As. However, why do the students want to get straight As? Do they know? I doubt every student knows that. For many of them, it is very likely an auto-pilot goal. “Oh, because the teachers say that I should aim for straight As.” Or, “Oh, because everyone is aiming for that.” Or, “That’s what my parents keep telling me to do.” Incidentally, the very students who face procrastination, inertia in studies are also the ones who have no idea why exactly they’re studying or gunning for As.

In Module 1 of Anti-Procrastination Program, I share how I used to procrastinate heavily in my studies. During high school, I never paid attention in class, felt school was a waste of time, and copied school assignments. During my high school’s leaving examinations, I was the second last student in class. After continuing such conduct for a while, I eventually realized that I needed to get my s*** together. Either quit school if school was such a piece of s***, or suck it up and get things done. Stop mucking around and wasting everyone’s time. My time.

After deep reflection, I realized that I did want to be in school. I realized that even if no one forced me to study, that there was no stigma against students who left school, that I would still want to be in school. I realized the role of studying in my life: it was a way for me to socialize, to educate me about the world, and to set me up for a better future. Realizing this, I then got my act together and took my studies seriously. I graduated from one of the top business schools in Asia as the top student in Marketing, a Dean’s Lister, and with a job in one of the most highly sought after employers in the country (though as you guys know, I quit 2 years later to pursue my passion).

(For students looking for study tips, read: How To Be a Dean’s Lister (series).)

3) Alignment Your Environment in Favor of Your 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 top-line tips. For the deep-dive into procrastination, work through the modules in Anti-Procrastination Program; it’s my one-stop program to eradicating procrastination at every level.

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.

Read:

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