Deciding to act is a major challenge for all of us. Many times, we know what we need to do, but something holds us back from taking action. You might think to yourself:
“I don’t feel like working out” or “I don’t have the energy right now.”
Getting started presents the hardest mental block to overcome because it requires us to break the momentum of inaction. Humans are largely creatures of inertia, primarily because the primal part of the brain is scared of change—perceiving it as a threat to our safety—and does what it can to motivate us to maintain the status quo. The brain likes being in control and the hunger for certainty is one of the brain’s crucial functions.
Fear of failure results in a lot of inaction in our lives. Sometimes, we fear change because we can’t anticipate the outcome. Neuroscience research reveals this uncertainty registers in our brain much like an error does, so we would rather avoid this discomforting feeling. This is why our brain will actually prefer a predictable negative outcome over an uncertain one that might bring us a positive change.
However, the good news is our mind is flexible and adaptive; it can be trained to thrive in change. Once we get the ball rolling it often becomes harder to stop doing something, even if it is a challenging task.
In my experience, if I waited for the perfect moment when I felt like my energy was high and I wanted to work out, I’d barely ever get out the door. Pay attention to your limiting thoughts. The goal is to use your vision to help you get out the door. Think, “This is what I am doing and nothing can stop me.”
How to Overcome the Uncertainty Mental Block
Notice when your brain is working against you and start performing small actions which help shift your brain toward become your ally. Every habit starts with a trigger that ushers in the next step, like a chain reaction.
Ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that can happen when I take this small action?”
Get started on something small and managable that you can do in less than a few minutes. Acknowledge the fear, and work out a plan for the worst-case scenario. When you accept, there will probably be no negative outcomes to a task that only takes a few minutes, then the less power any resistance to doing it will have over you.
Switch your mindset to how will you feel after taking this action. When you decide to act you will be relieved. Then you can get started on the next step. After two small wins, you have now created momentum and your brain starts to accept this new way of acting. A lack of self confidence, is why we often don’t believe enough in ourselves to overcome discomfort. By achieving small wins, we start to build self-confidence and a success-based attitude.
I once heard psychologist Jordan Peterson say the solution to the terror of the future is a dream. If you are worried about what the future holds, then you need a dream that makes you feel excited and draws you toward the future in a positive mindset. The goal is to divert your thoughts into constructive directions. When we habitually look for the negative side of every situation, we invariably think and talk of possible failure, instead of concentrating upon the means of success. I believe one root of suffering is identifying the rumination of the brain and identifying this chatter as who you are. Instead, it’s just the noise your brain makes, and you are capable of far more than any self-limiting thoughts.
When you decide to act and take life on, it might be initially painful or uncomfortable, but this is where the growth lies. By taking action, you're putting yourself in the position to grow.
If you really can’t get motivated to get moving in the outdoors, simply change into your workout clothes. See if your thoughts start to shift. Tell yourself, I’m just going to walk outside for a minute or two and I can always come back inside. Get out the door and do it. Check in again and see if your thoughts have changed. At the end of the two minutes, ask if you can do another minute, then five and so on. As you begin the task, you can start a chain reaction to push past the initial limitation set by your brain.
Almost every time, after 10-15 minutes of breaking through the mental resistance barrier and beginning a workout I am happy that I did and I start to feel energised.