You may be tired of hearing about goals and goal setting by now. That’s why I decided to talk about it at the end of January instead of the beginning. Lucky you (hah, hah). Seriously though, have you ever looked at your goals and wondered why you didn’t accomplish some or all of them? Have you ever felt like your best laid plans fall flat on their face? Well you’re not alone.
Most of us at some point in our lives have felt like we’ve failed or at least come up short in accomplishing the things that matter most to us. We sit puzzled by the fact that we got stuck halfway through. With goal setting, we typically think only about our actions and habits (rightly so), but we also have to remember the power of our mindset as well. It can aid in our efforts to reach our dreams or it can sabotage our plans and keep us stuck.
Years ago, I read an article that changed my perspective on this topic. Of course, I read it before the days of social media, (let me know if you’ve heard of this concept so I can give credit), but the basic idea was that when we feel held back in accomplishing our life desires, we need to understand if we’re living in fearful procrastination or faithful patience.
It’s interesting that both of these zones, faithful patience and fearful procrastination, appear to halt our progression, but in reality, only one of them impedes our progress and fuels frustration. It’s the zone of fearful procrastination.
Fearful procrastination masks itself as faithful patience, but the truth remains that it actually impedes our progress. Every. Time.
Fearful Procrastination Zone
This zone lives in our mindset when we put off projects and wait to make goals because of fear. Maybe we don’t realize it’s fear holding us back. It might be that we don’t know how to do something or we think it will be too difficult or that it will change us (negatively or positively). Maybe we haven’t petitioned a higher source to help us proceed or it could be due to a goal we set from our ego–not our soul.
Whatever the fear or the underlying reason, when we are in this life mode, we can’t truly move forward. We are genuinely stuck.
Fearful procrastination goes hand in hand with other distorted thinking patterns, limiting beliefs, ingratitude, and skewed perspective. It accompanies poorly developed habits, greed, avoidance, and laziness.
Faithful Patience Zone
The second zone is that of faithful patience, which involves waiting as well, but the deliberate act of pausing is a conscious choice.
In this careful mindset we wait but for completely different reasons.
“The patient dog eats the fattest bone.” African saying
Maybe our financial goals require a certain amount of capital or savings or we decide to hold off on that new car or home project until we have saved for it. Possibly we are trying to progress in a relationship where the other person hasn’t reached the same emotional level as ourselves.
It’s okay and even good at times to process a faithful patience mindset–so long as it doesn’t move over to fearful procrastination.
For example, that same faithful patience waiting for a person to commit may at some point turn into fearful procrastination where we stay with them out of fear that we won’t find anyone else or because changing the relationship would be painful and difficult.
The First Step is Awareness
You may be tempted to turn to others to help you understand which zone you’re living in, but most importantly, it’s you that must understand which zone you’re living in. This awareness is not usually something that can be figured out by others. Once we know what’s holding us back, then we can make progress and feel peace about our decisions and plans.
This awareness helps you can look at those areas in your life where you’re not progressing and ask yourself, “Am I not moving forward (or am I stuck) because of fearful procrastination or faithful patience?”
If your answer is fearful procrastination, then you need to examine what is causing the fear and work to conquer it.
Leo Babauta from Zen Habits, wrote about one particular skill we can develop which will move us through our fears. He pinpoints this skill as “learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Once we’re aware of our natural inclination to run when things are difficult, stressful, or different, we can ease into new healthy routines, develop effective habits, and stay the course. I also love this article by Benjamin Hardy about how to take more shots in life.
If your answer is faithful patience, then you have 2 options:
- Begin (or keep making) goals and plans toward incremental progress on your desires and wants.
- If the timing still isn’t right, simply remain aware and continue waiting patiently.
Perhaps the hardest test in life is remaining in the faithful patience zone seeking to do God’s will and being asked by a loving Father to stay the course and remain valiant, especially when you want to see the desires of your heart realized.
While you’re pausing in the zone of faithful patience, ask yourself, “Is what you are waiting for still important to you? Is it something you truly desire? Is it something God wants for you?”
Obviously, only you can answer those questions, but if it’s a resounding yes, then hang on to that faithful patience through setting goals and taking action or through waiting with belief and hope. Just remain on guard so that your faith doesn’t turn into fear.
Sometimes we can have both fearful procrastination keeping us bound along with faithful patience.
Years ago I thought about starting a particular business but held off because I didn’t feel that it was the right time while my family was young, but as I dug deeper, I also realized that there was fearful procrastination at play because I felt inadequate about how to start and find clients, how to manage the legal implications, and how much time it would realistically take. I questioned if it was worth my time and energy.
In the end, after introspection and prayer, I decided not to pursue the business because it didn’t line up with my life purpose, desires, or dreams. I was relieved to realize that while I definitely had fears, in reality, it was my undecided priorities that were stopping my progression. It was so freeing to set aside these plans which had caused feelings of stress and guilt.
Take a few minutes to list the things you are “waiting” to do in your life as well as review the goals where you feel stuck and where you can’t seem to make progress. Think about why you aren’t accomplishing them. Which category would you place them in?
Most of us start strong with our goals but then struggle to bring them to completion. Each of us have areas where we lack follow through. While that can be traced to a number of things, one of the most powerful is our mindset.
Remember, only the zone of faithful patience brings eventual movement.
May your goal setting and achieving this year be plentiful, abounding with faithful patience and active progress.
What are some of the ways you overcome fear? How do you keep a positive outlook when you have to remain patient with your goals and dreams?