Get out of your own way


I am sure most people are familiar with the sentiment of “getting out of your own way”. It might sound woo-woo and purple feather to some, but it is a fact that we all get in our own way sometimes. It applies to our work, health and lifestyle habits, and it especially applies to anyone creative or artistic, or those who engage in any kind of activity that requires using a part of our selves in order to achieve an outcome.

First I’d like to briefly explore what is meant by getting in our own way. In short,  it’s self-sabotage, which is more often than not fuelled by self doubt. I have written and made videos before here and here about self doubt. It plagues me regularly and often results in complete paralysis and inaction on my part. I am getting better, but it never really goes away and I am certainly not alone in this, as I have found out many times over.

What does getting in your own way look like? It can take many forms such as procrastination, over thinking, delaying tactics, over analysing, withdrawing from activities and pursuits, cancelling commitments, distraction and addiction to name just a few.

So what can we do about it?

I discuss some strategies for self doubt in the blog and video above, so I won’t go into that aspect again here, but as the root cause of a lot of this, it is important to overcome. I will rather suggest some physical and immediate things you can do to move begin getting out of your own way when the urge arises to overthink and procrastinate.

Choose one task or thing that you are avoiding, ignoring, procrastinating about. Sit with it for a while and see how you feel when you think about doing it. Take a breath and allow your feelings to come, they won’t hurt you. They may feel uncomfortable and you might want to avoid them, but they will subside eventually. It can help to close your eyes for a second and simply breathe naturally and allow the feelings to subside, which they will given time. I promise.


Break the task down into the tiniest of steps.

Do the smallest one first.

This maybe counterintuitive to some people who prefer the “eat a frog” approach which also has its benefits, but for this purpose sometimes I find baby steps are best.

It might be that you only do the smallest one for that day, but I bet once you give it a try, you will find yourself wanting to do the next one and the next one etc. The feeling of accomplishment is contagious and you will want more. If you don’t then that’s absolutely fine. At least you have done one thing.

For instance I have been procrastinating a lot about some study I am doing. I absolutely love the course – Positive Psychology, but for some reason I have found myself continuing to put it off. I have done the face to face component, it is now down to the readings, assignments and self reflections. For the last 3 months my to do list has included “calendar Positive Psychology”. I need to break it down further though. So it might look something like this.

  1. Sort readings into subjects (there are a LOT).
  2. File readings into subject folders.
  3. Sort assignments into subjects.
  4. Analyse time required to complete each subject.
  5. Block out calendar for a regular study period each week.
  6. Choose one subject to begin focussing on.
  7. Write study plan for chosen subject.
  8. Read one paper.
  9. Write reflections as I read.
  10. Read second paper.

And so on.

This can apply for anything that needs to be done, that you are avoiding for whatever reason.

Now I should say if something causes significant distress or discomfort, it might be worth asking yourself it there is another way. Do you really need to do it? If yes, can you ask for help or delegate a part of it? Can you get someone to assist you just to get started? You may want to look into why it is so distressing for you if it is something that you are required to do, especially if it is something you need to do regularly. Some levels of discomfort require exploring on a deeper level and this is definitely something to consider working with someone on.

So, what are you putting off doing and what are some small steps you can take to get it happening?

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