A cure for the “If this is such a good idea, why aren’t I doing it?” blues

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Have you ever had a great idea–or two–that you were eager to act on, but you couldn’t seem to get moving? It could have been an art project, a blog, a book. Whatever it was, the initial inspiration seemed so clear, and then? Mush.

There are two big–and curable–reasons this happens, and neither of them has anything to do with the quality of the idea itself. That is, you don’t usually get stuck because your idea is bad. You get stuck because you haven’t made a decision or you don’t have conditions of satisfaction.

Decisions are powerful

When you make a decision you choose to commit. You’re saying, This is what I am going to do. This is what I am going to create.”

You can have a great idea, a wonderful, juicy, vivid idea, but until you decide to commit, it’s just an idea. It doesn’t matter how good an idea you think it is. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend thinking about it. Until you decide to bring it to life, nada.

What makes a decision a decision

A decision is a decision when two things happen: You choose and you declare that you have chosen.

Choose: The Latin root of decision means to cut off or cut away. And when you choose to do one thing, you are choosing not to do something else. You cut away some possibilities for the sake of the one you choose.

Fear of letting go of other possibilities is one of the chief blocks to making a decision. But notice: If you try to keep all the possibilities open, you never follow through on any of them. To make your idea real, you’re going to have to choose it over other ideas.

Declare you have chosen: Language makes things happen. We declare things into existence, as when a minister declares, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Your decision is complete when you put your choice into words and declare it to yourself and others.

The declaring it to others piece is important. A declaration is incomplete until it is both spoken and heard. To put oomph behind your decision, get a witness.

Now what? How vision gets fuzzy

So you’ve made a choice and declared it, now what? Many an idea stalls at this point. The original vision gets surprisingly fuzzy.

When you think about, you’ll see it’s natural for an idea to get fuzzy after you’ve decided to pursue it. For one thing, you may be a bit shy about the choice you’ve made. Can you really do this thing? Will it work? For another, bringing an idea to life usually involves a lot of moving parts. Many different things will need to be done at many different times. Right after you’ve made a decision, it’s easy to be swamped by all the steps you might need to take. The simple brilliance you started with becomes quite confused.

Restore focus with conditions of satisfaction

You may have read about conditions of satisfaction in last week’s article.
Conditions of satisfaction describe what has to happen in order for you to be satisfied with the form your idea takes. They are tremendously helpful in getting beyond the vague, if inspired, vision you often have once you’ve made a decision. Once you have set conditions of satisfaction, it is much easier to see what needs to happen for your idea to take shape.

Let’s say you decide to start a blog. While it was still a sparkling idea, you felt quite inspired by the possibilities. Now that you’ve declared that you’re going to do it, so many questions crowd your mind. What are you going to write about? How often should you post? How do you get people to read it?
Before you start to answer those questions, stop. Check in with yourself and connect with your original reasons for choosing this idea. What has to happen for you to be satisfied with the blog you create?

Sample conditions of satisfaction

Here are conditions of satisfaction a nutritionist might write for a blog intended to attract prospective clients. In parentheses after each condition of satisfaction are standards for meeting that condition.

  1. Blogging has to fit into the time I have available and not compete with serving clients. (Standards: I’ll spend at least two hours and no more than four hours a week working on the blog. No more than 20 minutes per week will be spent on technical stuff. If I can’t solve something in 10 minutes, I’ll get help.)
  2. I need to be able to keep up with twice weekly posts without tearing my hair out thinking up ideas. (Standards: 50% of my posts will be me talking about good nutrition in my own voice. The other 50% will be me pointing to other blog posts or resources on the Web and commenting on them.)
  3. Visitors have to feel like they’ve landed in a yummy place. (Standards: 75% of posts will have vivid photos of healthy food simply prepared. Colors will be bright, clear, and simple. My photo will show me smiling and in casual clothing.)
  4. The blog will attract new readers every month. (Standards: There will be a way for people to subscribe to the blog. I will spend at least an hour each week reading and commenting on related blogs. I will take an online course in Search Engine Optimization for blogs. I will announce new posts to the people on my mailing list once a week and ask them to tell their friends. I will tweet about new posts.)

Notice that standards describe specifically what you will do–and when–to meet your conditions of satisfaction. It’s also important the standards be something you can control by your own actions. If you live up to your standards, you declare yourself satisfied.

Your great ideas don’t need to be stalled by temporary fuzziness

It’s natural to go through a phase of fuzziness when you have a great idea. Your great idea will look a lot more possible after you’ve made a clear decision and created conditions of satisfaction.

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Photo credit: Zetson via flickr

10 Comments

  1. Grandpa Shayne

    Molly, Thank you for making it clear how to get unstuck. Make a choice. Declare it (have a witness). Focus: Write down the conditions that have to happen for you to be satisfied with your choice/project.

    Reply
  2. Molly Gordon

    Great summary, Shayne!
    Grandma Molly 🙂

    Reply
  3. Marilyn

    Hi Molly,
    I love this idea of conditions of satisfaction. I did read it in the earlier post, but it really sinks in with this specific example. As I think about it I’m realizing I do this sometimes, naturally — and those are the projects that go forward more easily. And that often when I’m stuck it’s because I don’t know what will satisfy my vision, or how I’ll know when I get there. (Or whether the whole thing will get out of control and I’ll never be “done”.) I’ve got some ideas already about the conditions of satisfaction for some projects I’ve been stuck on.
    And, you’re spot on about making a decision, too. I’m totally guilty, at times, of not wanting to let go of any possibilities, and then end up never creating any actualities. The witness part is huge, since it’s easy to make a “decision” privately while secretly keeping options open and not actually committing. I find the best witnesses are those that come back and ask: are you moving ahead with that? did you make that phone call? so that they’re also witnessing the commitment to each step.
    Thanks for this great post! Good frame of mind to start the day.

    Reply
  4. Giselle

    Molly,
    You hit the nail on the proverbial head for me this morning! I just revisited what I wanted to do – what services I can offer that I not only can do but am energized by its execution. I worked out all the steps in my business model – from FREE to FEE and then WHAM! This morning I felt stuck. And like you said – I know this is what I want to do – I have successfully sold in real life 🙂 all of the products and services I’m offering – so why do I feel so fuzzy?
    And there was the answer waiting for me. Even though I printed and read the article last week about Conditions of Satisfaction – I did not make the connection that this is what I needed to do and so TODAY – yesireeee TODAY!!! I am going to define my conditions.
    Thanks Molly for sharing and showing me things that I cannot see for myself.
    Giselle
    Planting Possibility Seeds

    Reply
  5. Lynda

    Commit and declare: so elegant in their simplicity, yet (often) so hard to pull off. Great post yet again, Molly, and thanks for the link to conditions of satisfaction.

    Reply
  6. Erika

    THanks for this, Molly. I know about the conditions of enoughness from Jen Louden and I am guessing that you are referring to those ideas.
    I didn’t read your other blog. THis post is very helpful to me, especially the specific example.
    I want to run creativity groups and finally am taking my first real action step of offering a series of groups for friends so that I can practice with them and get feedback.
    In another life I was an art therapist before kids but now I want to switch to creativity and wellness groups with a “healthy” population.
    I have a great plan and am implementing it but I can see how I get stuck on the actions steps. Whenever I am clear about what I am expecting, then I can stop and declare myself satisfied. Otherwise I keep doing more and more without a real focus and can easily become frustrated that I am not doing enough.
    My first group is this Saturday. I think I will revise my thinking about it to encompass these steps that you describe.
    warmly,
    Erika

    Reply
  7. Molly Gordon

    @Marilyn: You are so right about the best witnesses being those who can track with you each step. That’s something the participants in Profit Alchemy 101 are practicing beginning today. I predict it will have powerful results.
    @Giselle: I hear you–those things that ought to be so clear can get awfully fuzzy. I’m so happy this piece connected. Thank you for flagging it on Facebook, too.
    @Lynda: You are most welcome.
    @Erika: Yes, Jen and I both learned about conditions of satisfaction via The Newfield Network, a wonderful coaching community. Jen’s interpretation, Conditions of Enoughness, is particularly helpful for managing overwhelm and the inner critic. I think the further distinction of standards bridges the gap between vision and practice.

    Reply
  8. Ariane Goodwin, Ed.D.

    OH Lady of Clarity – you’ve done it again. And how perfect to use a blog as your example – on the blog…isn’t there a specific word for that kind of integrated language=experience use of language?
    Of course, words are my creative tool of choice, so I love how you pay attention to the creative force of language in our daily lives. I’m printing this one out and posting it where I can see it often!

    Reply
  9. Jennifer Louden

    love how you continue to develop these ideas – so good to learn from you, as always!

    Reply
  10. Amanda Serrano

    Timely post! I found the link for it on the smARTist Career Blog. I am an artist and currently have a stalled project (see “Green Glass Bottles…Stalled” on my blog: amandaserrano.wordpress.com). Actually, I got sidetracked because of factors like wrong tool and having to wait for another one to arrive in the mail and incredibly slow process. I think I am going to have to accept the slowness and make it a point to do X amount each day until it’s done. It’s such a great project it can’t just be left unfinished! Thanks again for well-timed (for me) inspiration.

    Reply

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