When my daughter was about seven years old, she developed this condition I call the "but firsts,” which tends to show up every time I ask her to do something.
I tell her to clean her room. Immediately she retorts,
“Mom, but first...”
“I need a drink”
“I need to change clothes”
“I need to _____ ...”
The condition worsens in her bedroom, spiraling into dilly-dallying around, followed by complaining. “Mom this stinks! Cleaning takes so long! My friend wants me at her house in 20 minutes and I don’t have time for this!”
I give her advice that I need to take for myself. "You took a ten-minute job, and with your stalling and complaining, you made it a two-hour job."
We never really grow out of the "but firsts." When we’ve been called to do something new in our lives, we often fear the destination unknown. Even if our current situation is stressful and chaotic, many people, myself included, will tell you, “I don’t know why, but sometimes I prefer known chaos and conflict over the unknown outcome of a big decision.”
Many good things in my life today lived on the other side of my “but, first...” I delayed so many ideas for so long, citing reasons why it had to wait. I stalled for proof that I should take action. These stall tactics block us from taking the first step toward making our ideas reality and living our unique calling.
The "But First" Habits
List Making. We cite all the things we have to do before we take action.
“But first, I need to get more education… “
“But first, I need to lose the last 10 pounds…”
“But first, I need to make a little more money....”
Other’s Opinions. Alongside our list, we may solicit opinions from others on what we should do. Maybe we're hoping that they calm us with certainties. Yes, getting experience from those who’ve traveled the path can provide valuable wisdom, but stay careful not to allow other's opinions override what your gut and intuition knows to be right for you. Often, this stalls as as we wait for absolutely clarity on the next step we should take.
Comparing. A quick way to kill our motivation is to compare our skills or ideas to someone else. When we scroll on social media, it’s easy to start believing that we aren’t “enough” of something. our Inner Critic is skilled at finding people at work to compare ourselves to. In my personal and leadership coaching experience, we tend to overestimate others’ confidence and competence and underestimate our own.
How To Get Into Action
Each of us has unique talents and gifts - something significant to contribute to the office and the world. That is what your unique genius is – your natural gifts and your innate talents. Anchoring down into your unique gifts and talents helps you own your confidence and strengths.
Our “but firsts” often keep us stuck from using our gifts to make an impact. Have you ever dreamed of voicing a new idea, changing careers, or applying for that next level role? Maybe you were like me and believe you could never take the entrepreneurship leap.
Here are three questions to reflect or journal on to help you overcome what holds you back:
What is it that you really want? Why can’t you have it? List all those stories down of why you think you can’t have it. You’re not ready. You’re not qualified, you’re not creative enough.
Now, ask yourself, are these reasons really true or is that just the inner liar in our head that spins lies to keep us from what we’re truly called to do?
Finally, if you acted like you didn’t believe these thoughts about why you can’t have it, what’s one little step you’d take tomorrow? What’s one new thing you’d try? What wisdom would your 90-year old self give you about this moment?
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What is the bravest, smallest step that you can do today advances you in the next direction of where you want to go?