I hear it time and time again from my clients: ‘I’m not ready.’ I’m not ready to start my own business. I’m not ready for the promotion I’ve been working towards for years. I’m not ready to have a baby. I’m not ready to buy a house. I’m not ready to be a head coach.
The problem with, I’m not ready is this: one never actually feels 100% ready… EVER. That’s the thing with change- it always feels new and uncomfortable and a little strange at first. And of course we know this, logically, but we listen anyway and we convince ourselves this little voice telling us we aren’t ready must be correct.
Women in particular seem to really struggle with this. Research by Harvard Business Review found that men apply for jobs when they have only 6 out of the 10 qualifications listed on the job description while women apply only when they have all 10. Presumably this is because women don’t feel ready unless they have all the skills they need for the job when they apply for the job. (To be fair, some people say this study isn’t evidence of a lack of confidence but a misunderstanding of the hiring process- I tend to think it’s a bit of both.)
Now, it’s not to say that you should run out and start a business, have a baby, buy a house and apply for the new job tomorrow. It’s just to say that the little voice in your head that tells you that you aren’t ready will never actually go away. So if you sit and wait for it to announce to you and the world, TODAY I am ready world, well, you might be waiting for awhile. Or forever.
The really dangerous part of all this is that the ‘I’m not ready’ excuse can linger and drag on for years, long after the time when you could have taken a step forward, built on some experience, or even decided that what you think you want actually isn’t for you and moved on to something that really gets your heart pumping with passion. I see it all the time; women that sort of want to take a step forward to something new but hold back because they don’t feel 100% ready. So they wait. And wait. And wait.
Getting ready to get going to get started
My coach puts it perfectly: Lindsey, she says, stop getting ready, to get going, to get started. A piece of advice I pass on regularly to my clients.
In fact, I had to pull this quote out recently when I sat down with a woman named Dawn. Dawn is in her mid-20s working a desk job as the office manager for a fun and vibrant start up in San Francisco. She loves the interaction and feels fulfilled with her daily work but is fiercely passionate about one thing and one thing only: Pilates.
She loves it so much that her weekends are spent attending classes, honing her craft in her apartment or attending certification courses. Her ultimate dream is to open a studio some day and provide a holistic approach to fitness to a select and small group of devotees. She even has a name picked out that she told me only after swearing me to secrecy. She’s already certified to teach and is on a substitute list at her local studio. In other words, she is ready.
The problem is that she doesn’t feel ready.
Every time we talk, she is convinced that she needs to do something else; get her website up, get further certifications, order business cards, or worst of all that she isn’t ready yet (insinuating that someday in the future she will be…magically).
Every journey begins with a single step.
So I pressed Dawn to brainstorm all the places she could use her pilates passion (even if she never did). Some interesting opportunities stared back at her:
- Offer a free Pilates session at work during lunch time to colleagues
- Do Pilates in the park with a friend on Saturday mornings with a little sign for people that want more information.
- Start creating weekly Pilates workouts and post them on social media
- Contact her favorite Pilates instructor and ask to shadow them for a day
- Sit down with a studio owner and pick their brain about what it’s like to make a business of Pilates.
- Trade services with a photographer friend to get some high resolution photos of herself practicing.
- Start a simple website and blog for people interested in 1 on 1 Pilates instruction.
- Start telling people that she is a Pilates instructor. After all she is.
Dawn didn’t need to do all of these steps, she just needed to get going with a few of them. But the familiar hesitation was still there, just now masked even more discretely than before. Instead of ‘I’m not ready’ she came up with new reasons.
- On doing a session at work she worried that her boss wouldn’t like that idea –why not ask your boss directly?, I suggested.
- To the photographer idea she said she didn’t know any- really?, I said, ‘You can’t find a friend of a friend on facebook that does photography? I have like 5.
- To the website idea she said she didn’t have the money to have one made-you can start a website with a clean layout you can design yourself for $10/month, I replied.
When I write this out, Dawn sounds like an extreme case. But she’s not, trust me. We ALL do this. Our subconscious brain is so creative at finding ways to avoid failure, being uncomfortable or taking risks that we invent reasons to hold back. This truly is not unique to Dawn.
Finally, Dawn found a few tasks that she could start with. The scariest was also the simplest: ‘start calling herself a Pilates instructor.’ And so she did, reluctantly and with a little crack in her voice. But she did it. It’s a start.
You can see how Dawn is on a journey made up of small steps forward. A journey that may or may not lead to the goal she intended – for example, she might realize that she doesn’t actually want to own a studio, she might prefer the simplicity of working with only a few clients in shared space, she might realize she loves practicing Pilates but not teaching it, or she might find a new passion. Regardless of what the future holds for Dawn, at least she is taking a step forward, saying yesto her passion, and exploring actively what that could look like in her life. No moreI’m not ready talk that keeps her on the sideline.
Now back to you. You might be thinking ‘Yes, but what if I’m truly not ready?’ It’s a legitimate question because you might not be. Then again, you might just be lying to yourself. It’s almost impossible to know for sure but these 5 steps can help you break out of the I’m not ready trap and decide if you are ready to go for it (even if you still aren’t entirely sure.)
1. The 60% rule.
While you may never feel 100% for something, you also likely don’t want to throw yourself into things willy nilly with no sense if your skills match up with the endeavor.
I get it. I don’t want to do that either. That’s just stupid. And perhaps narcissistic.
So for me, it’s often helpful to have a barometer. If 100% is unobtainable and 0% is not ideal either, what is the magic number? For me it’s 60% ready.
Because I want a base of skill, knowledge or ability but I don’t want to expect I can be at 80% until I jump in. As with many things, you’ll likely learn so much so quickly that you’ll be at 80% faster by actually doing something than by sitting around waiting or even studying that thing you want to do.
Think about it: If you were learning to dance you could study and study and study, you could watch others, you could learn about dance history, you could study music and rhythm and beats but you will never make that jump in true learning until you get on the dance floor. You’d likely be terrible at first. And that would suck. It might be really embarrassing. But quickly you’d make strides that are impossible to make by just watching.
Get on the dance floor. At 60%.
2. Ask people you trust
Hopefully, you have some cheerleaders in your life that help you see your talents and abilities without the fog of self-doubt that might be preventing you from seeing it.
It’s not that you want to find people to lie to you. But often people who love you can see that your potential is just outside what might be comfortable and familiar for you. They can help you see that you are ready and remind you that even if you fail (see #3) that they’ll be there for you cheering you on.
The scariest part of all this is actually saying out loud that thing you have been thinking in your head all this time. Because, guess what? Once you start telling people you are writing a book- they start asking every time you see them when the book is coming out (ask me how I know) Be ready but also use this to your advantage; there is nothing stronger than outside accountability delivered with love and care.
Side note: People that love you also want to keep you safe from failure. This might come across as not supportive when they remind you that your goal is risky and perhaps a long shot. This can be discouraging if you aren’t prepared. So if you don’t get the reaction you were hoping for, don’t despair. Don’t hold this against them. It’s likely they just want to save you from the disappointment that comes from big goals.
3. Be ready to find help
If I’m being honest with myself, I was never really ready to run my company. Because, despite the fact that I have three websites and 7 online courses, I am not a ‘tech’ person. I’m just not. If I had waited to be ready, by learning how to code or trying to teach myself UX design, you wouldn’t be reading this because I never would have gotten started.
Part of being ready is learning that you can’t be good at everything. You just have to know the places you excel, and then be willing to find people whose skill set can fill in your gaps. Don’t confuse being ready with being good at everything.
4. Accept failure as inevitable
I know for myself that one of the fallacies wrapped up into the I’ll be readysomeday lie is an unmentioned assumption that if I’m ready, I won’t fail (or at least the risk goes down). That’s not true. When you do anything new, you are going to fail- maybe that will be in big, public, ugly ways or in small ways that only you know. The truth is that failure will happen if you are doing anything remotely interesting in your life and the stakes will go up the more you push yourself.
So it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and no amount of preparation is going to take that risk away completely.
5. It’s not all or nothing
Sometimes you need to just take a step into the unknown. Like Dawn, you may not be ready to open a studio, or change careers, or travel the world for an entire year, but maybe you can do something in that direction; then at least you won’t be sitting on the sideline watching other people take steps toward what they want.
The problem with thinking you need to do big things is that you often really AREN’T ready for those big things, paralysis sets in, and you end up doing nothing. Dawn wasn’t ready to take on a studio lease, or the endless details of running a business, but she was ready to dip her toe into exploring that arena.
Don’t think your first step needs to be the only step- there is nothing wrong with small steps. And there is nothing wrong with taking small steps in a number of different directions to learn and grow and explore your passions.
“Remember, nothing can replace the ‘doing’; not studying, not preparing, not dreaming.”
So, do a quick mental check in: remind yourself (and each other) that the little voice that says I’m not ready, is lying to you. That you will never actually feel 100% ready, but 60% is good enough to get started. That you will probably fail regardless of how long you prepare. That a support system will help every time. That being ready doesn’t require being good at everything. And finally, remember that you don’t necessarily need to jump into the deep end when you can dip a toe in the shallow end and find out the water is just fine.
Lindsey Wilson, is passionate about women and confidence and believes fiercely in the power of a community to create change.To join us and kick more ass in your life, start with her popular: 5 Steps to Kickass Confidence by clicking here. And she’s writing a book for kickass women. Ask her when it will be done. More high performance musing can be found here.