How often do you think to yourself, “I know what to do, but I’m just not doing it”?
If you have ADHD or ADHD tendencies, it’s probably more often than you’d like.
You know the steps.
You’ve heard the strategies.
And you even want to try them!
But for one reason or another, you’re not taking action.
If this sounds familiar, you definitely want to check out episode 103 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast.
In it, we’re talking about that missing piece.
We’re digging into the key component that helps us shift from simply knowing what to do to actually doing it.
So if you’re ready to make things happen, check out episode 103 now.
You can listen to the episode above, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
In This Episode, You Will Discover…
- The number one reason why you get stuck in inaction
- What you can do about it
- Three ways to put these strategies into action today
Links From The Podcast
- Sign up for your free consultation with me here
- Get the top 10 tips to work with your ADHD brain (free ebook!)
- Boost your focus and concentration with this free training here
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Episode #103: Here’s Why You Don’t Do The Thing: 3 Powerful Misconceptions (Transcript)
You’re listening to the I’m Busy Being Awesome Podcast with Paula Engebretson, episode number 103. Hey, friends. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for tuning in today. Thank you for sharing this podcast with your friends. Thanks for connecting with me over on Instagram and leaving reviews. This community busy-awesome community is truly amazing.
Today, we’re taking a deep dive into our thoughts. Now, I know that we talk a lot about mindset on this podcast. And this is for good reason. When we only have the tips and tricks, most of the time, we don’t follow through. Our brain is convinced that we just need the right planner or the best organizational system. And while we do talk about that as well, and the step-by-step is important, the missing link is often the thoughts and feelings that drive either our actions or our inactions.
I hear this from my clients all the time – both my ADHD clients specifically as well as those who struggle with focus and follow-through generally. Time and time again I hear “I know the tools. I know the strategies. I know the tactics. But I’m still not sticking with it.” On my first call with a client a couple of weeks ago, she said, “I could write an entire book on productivity if I could just sit down and write it.” In other words, I know exactly what to do, but I’m just not doing it.
So again, we can have all the tips, strategies, and concepts, but if we’re not managing our minds, we’re missing a critical component. And today I want to explore the truth about our thoughts and address three misunderstandings that often keep us feeling stuck.
And as a side note. If you are traditionally a person who is looking for the “how.” If you’re like I was and constantly looking for the quickest way to boost your productivity or the best app to stay organized. And if you’re thinking about skipping to a different episode that talks more about the strategy because mindset stuff is weird, I highly encourage you to stick around. Because this is everything.
3 Misunderstandings That Keep Us Stuck
So like I said, we’re going to look at these common misunderstandings – three thought errors – and the sneaky ways they present themselves. And throughout the episode, you’ll learn how to recognize when they’re showing up for you in your life. Plus, we’ll talk about what to do when these thought errors arise so you can navigate the situation and choose intentionally what you want to think instead to get you into action.
As I talk about all the time on the podcast, what we think – whether intentionally or unintentionally – ultimately creates our results. And when we can reign in our racing mind and decide with intention what deserves our focus and energy, that makes a truly powerful difference. And I’ll show you how that’s true today.
Thoughts are not reality
Now here’s the deal. Most of us – myself included before I began studying thought work and mindset. We think that just because a thought popped into our mind, it automatically makes it true. We think that every observation our brain makes is simply reporting the facts.
And this was a truly mind-blowing realization to me when I first found thought work. I always thought that whatever my brain offered me was the “Truth.” I never even thought to question it. If I thought someone was rude, it was true. They were rude. If I thought someone was mad at me it was true. And what’s more, I thought it was my actions that made them mad. If I thought I wasn’t smart enough, it was true. If my brain offered the thought, your work is so much less than everyone else’s, there was no questioning it. It was simply true.
Now if you’ve been listening to the podcast for a little while, you know that my brain was mistaken. Just because we think something, doesn’t make it true. Thoughts are just sentences in our brain. They are optional. We do not have to think them.
Examples of Optional Thoughts
Your brain is constantly offering lots of different sentences, and you get to choose the sentences on which you want to focus. For example, let’s say you have a handful of tasks on your schedule for the day. And you’re looking at the first task and you do not want to do it. Your brain offers the thought, “this sounds terrible. I don’t want to do this. It’s going to take too long.”
Now, this may all seem very true to you. It may seem like your brain is simply offering the facts. But in reality, it’s all optional. You get to choose whether you think those thoughts and continue to believe them or if you just want to let them pass by and choose something different to think.
Yes, you could decide to believe the thought. You could believe that the task is terrible and that you don’t want to do it and that it will take too long.
But in that situation, it’s probably not going to create the result you want, especially if it is something that you intentionally put on your schedule at one point or another. Because doing so suggests that – rather – you actually do want to do it. At some point in the past, your prefrontal cortex – the executive part of your brain that makes decisions and plans things out – thought, “Yes. This is a good idea to plan for my future self.”
Challenging Your Thoughts
And this is how we start wiggling that thought loose. Because on the surface, your brain might grab onto those negative thoughts. It could very easily start believing them. But what if they’re not true? In fact, how might the opposite also true? As I mentioned, you probably do want to do it. Your brain is just offering a thought error.
Even if it’s something like paying your taxes or cleaning the bathroom, you do want to do it on some level. You don’t want get in trouble with the government. And you probably want a clean bathroom. So yes, on some level you do want to do it.
Similarly, is it true that it will take too long? What does “too long” mean? Everything’s relative, really. One person’s “too long” might be 15 minutes and another person’s “too long” might be 15 days. Who knows what “too long” means? You get to decide.
And then pushing this concept a bit further, do you even know how long it will actually take? Have you paused to time it out? If you are an ADHDer, you probably don’t know how long it takes since we’re time blind. So often when we dread a task, we think it’s going to take hours and hours. And when we actually time it out, it takes about 10 minutes. How do I know? That’s what I used to think about emptying the dishwasher and putting away my laundry. (Which takes 3 and 7 minutes respectively, by the way.)
Or if your brain offers an impulsive thought like, “you should totally buy this” or “I need that,” or “I have to keep scrolling so I don’t miss anything.” Again, these aren’t reality. They aren’t objective truths.
Just because your brain offers the thought error that you should buy it or you need it, it doesn’t mean you have to act on it. Just because your brain says, you can’t miss anything, keep scrolling, it doesn’t mean you have to do it.
I was talking about this with a client the other day. Our brain offers thoughts all the time. We don’t have to act on any of them. We don’t have to listen to any of them. All of our thoughts are optional. Any time your brain says, “I don’t want to. They’re so rude. She’s impossible. I can’t do this. I’m confused. I don’t have enough time.” All thoughts. All optional.
And when you slow down and start to separate yourself from your thoughts. When you slow down and create a little bit of distance. That’s when you start creating greater awareness. And that’s when you can start deciding more intentionally what you want to think, how you want to feel, and how you show up in the different situations each day. And that is when you realize how much control you have in what can otherwise seem like you’re living at the effect of your brain and its impulsivity. I mean seriously, how freeing is that?
Don’t Believe Everything You Think
And this brings me to the next area that I want to explore, which has to do with deciding where to put your focus. Often when I start working with clients, we begin by looking at their recurring thoughts. We start uncovering those long-held stories and beliefs that they have about themselves, their productivity, their ability to manage themselves within time, etc.
As they tell me about these different areas in their life, they share their thoughts like they’re reading the news. They state their thoughts like they’re facts. And again, this is completely normal. This means your brain is working. I did the same thing, too.
It sounds like, “I have two kids. I am 41 years old. I work as a dentist. I’m just really bad with time.” Or I’m horribly disorganized. I’m terrible at staying focused. All facts. All true. But here’s the deal – they are not all facts. Some of them are. Sure, you might have two kids. You might be 41. And you might work as a dentist. But the rest – your thoughts about being bad with time, disorganization, ability to focus – are all judgments. They’re thoughts. And they’re optional.
And when I challenge these thoughts, people often want to push back. They want to offer all of the evidence they have to prove their thought true. They want to prove that they are late all the time or that they can’t stay organized. They’ll show me pictures detailing their level of disorganization. They provide evidence upon evidence of how often they’re distracted.
Now, here’s the deal; having this information can be useful provided you’re not using it against yourself. But most of the time, we’re using it against ourselves.
If we’re just using it as data – meaning, “I have been late to six of the eight appointments and now I want to find out why” – that’s one thing. But 9 times out of 10, we are using it as evidence that we are terrible with time, we can never stick to our commitments. We, as humans, are terrible because we’re always late. We make it much more about who we are as humans rather than facts and data.
And this is often when people want to really question these concepts. In fact, you might be thinking similar questions yourself. Your brain might be thinking, “but I have evidence. I have proof that shows I never follow through. I have 15 projects that are half-finished. And I have never stuck with my New Year’s resolution past January 12.” Whatever evidence you have, you want to show it to me in order to argue for your story.
And my question to that is why? Why do you want to argue for this story? Why do you want to keep finding evidence and have others buy into this belief alongside you? Is it serving you? Is it helpful for you to assume the label of disorganized, of non-committed, of always late?
As I mentioned before, the beliefs you have – the beliefs you practice over and over – are going to end up in your result line. You are going to prove those thoughts true. So do you want to keep thinking them? How’s that working out for you?
If you assume the role or the label of a disorganized person. And you keep telling yourself over and over, I am so disorganized. You are probably feeling some form of disappointment or embarrassment or shame or annoyance or helplessness. And when you’re stuck in those emotions, I’m willing to bet that you are not taking strides to get organized. You are not decluttering your stuff. You’re not finding a system that works for you to get organized. You’re not finding the areas in your life where you ARE organized.
Instead, you’ve set your brain on a mission to find evidence of your disorganization. Because what you focus on grows. And what’s more, when you’re feeling those negative emotions, you may even feel the pull to put up a buffer between you and that negative emotion. So rather than feeling the emotion of discouragement because you’re thinking I’ve always been disorganized and I’ll never fix it. You instead put up a buffer to block you from feeling the emotion by hopping on Amazon for a little “retail therapy.” You look for more stuff so you can click the buy button, get the quick hit of dopamine, and feel better in the short term, only to add more stuff that you need to organize in the long term.
Or maybe your buffer of choice is going to the pantry or the fridge rather than feeling your feelings. Or maybe it’s social media or overworking. We all have different buffers that we turn to to keep us from feeling strong, negative emotions. And please know that I’m sharing this is without any finger-pointing or judgment. Because I’ve been there. That’s why I know it so well.
So yes, you can choose to believe and use evidence against yourself if you want to. But I don’t know that it’s necessary. I don’t know that it’s going to serve you in your long-term goals. In fact, I’d invite you to give the opposite a try.
What if you started finding evidence to the contrary? What have you started finding evidence for the areas where you are indeed organized? Or what if you start noticing the times when you are on time? What if you focused on the situation where you do follow through?
And with each of those wins, what if you pause and learn from them? What if you ask yourself, what worked here? What happened so that I was able to follow through, or show up on time or get myself organized? And how can I use this in other areas of my life?
I promise you, this is going to create a much better experience for you in terms of helping you move forward and create the result that you want. When you start identifying the moments when you are showing up in a way you want to, and you learn from those experiences, and you’ll find ways to replicate it more often, that’s the secret. Because again, what you focus on grows.
Returning thoughts aren’t a problem
The third misunderstanding that often arises when it comes to raising our awareness of our thoughts often happens after we’ve been doing the work for a little bit. Maybe we’ve been working to shift our thoughts about our productivity. Maybe we’ve been finding evidence that we are indeed organized or we do follow through on our tasks. Or maybe we’ve been practicing the new beliefs that we do have enough time and that we can get it all done.
But then something happens and our brain slips back into the old neural pathways. It slips back into the thoughts of time scarcity. It returns to the old familiar patterns of; “there’s too much to do and not enough time.” “I can never work fast enough.” “There’s no way I can get this all done.”
When this happens, we often want to jump to worst-case scenarios. Our perfectionist brain kicks in and starts telling us that we’re doing it wrong. We’re never going to get it right. We think things like: “I’ve been working so hard on shifting my beliefs. How come this thought is back? I thought I finally got rid of it!”
And when these old thought patterns return, we make it mean that we’re back to square one. We make it mean that we’ve failed and we haven’t stepped into our new beliefs. And we think to ourselves one of the most poisonous thoughts, which is, “it’s not working.”
We Think It’s Not Working
I’ll have people tell me, “I’ve been practicing this new thought for three weeks. I keep practicing it. I keep thinking it over and over. And I keep feeling the feelings. But the old thought still comes back. It’s not working. I must be doing it wrong.”
And 99.9% of the time my response is the same – you are exactly on track. Nothing has gone wrong. The only problem here is that you think this is a problem. You may have been practicing this thought for three weeks, but you’ve been thinking you don’t have enough time for 30 years. This new thought is going to take some practice.
Now, it will probably go faster. It’s not going to take you another 30 years to change it because now you’re doing it with intention. But when the old thought comes back, that’s okay! It is not a problem. When it’s a thought you’ve been thinking for many years, it’s kind of like the Grand Canyon of neural pathways. You have thought it SO OFTEN that your brain has a very well-worn path. And when you start your new thought that you’re practicing over and over for several weeks or even several months, it’s still just a tiny little stream that your building in your brain.
And when we have a new circumstance that we’ve never encountered before; let’s say you’re learning a new skill or you’re creating a new presentation for work or a product for your business. When this happens, your brain will naturally go back to what’s familiar because that’s what conserves energy as it learns the new thing. It will naturally slip back into the old, practiced neural pathways because it’s easier and more familiar.
So again, it’s OK when that happens. Your brain is doing what it is supposed to do. It’s trying to conserve energy as it learns the new skill or approaches the new goal or steps into something that’s moving out of your comfort zone. So rather than making it mean that you’ve completely fallen off the wagon and tripped up and are back at square one, let’s challenge that. Because the reality is that your brain just slipped into an old thought pattern that’s more familiar. And now we get to reroute it back to the new one. We get to put the new thought back on repeat, play that track again, and get it back into the front of our minds.
Because when we do this, we continue deepening that new neural pathway with the new practiced thought. And with practice, that will become your new go-to thought. And when the old thought returns, you’ll realize – oh there’s that thought again. No big deal, I don’t have to think this. Just because I’m thinking it doesn’t mean it’s true. I can choose to set it aside and start finding evidence for my new thought. I can start choosing the belief that serves me as I keep moving toward my goal.
Now admittedly, seeing the separation between your thoughts and reality can be super challenging. And this is especially true when you are in it. When you are working to step out of your comfort zone. When you’re feeling the discomfort and you have all of those negative thoughts popping up and making you feel stuck. But I’m telling you, once you gain the skillset and you have the tools in your toolkit to raise your awareness and intentionally choose your thoughts, it’s everything.
And if you want some help in making that happen. If you want to expedite the process and start seeing that growth even quicker, I’d love to help you do just that. Head to imbusybeingawesome.com/coaching. Sign up for a free consultation with me and we’ll talk about where you’re at, the goals you want to reach, and the thoughts that might be keeping you stuck. And we’ll also talk about whether my 1:1 coaching program is a great fit to help you make your goals happen.
And I also encourage you this week to start paying closer attention to your thoughts. What are the ones that you have on repeat? Are you believing that they’re absolute truth or are you seeing them as optional? Are you choosing the ones that serve you? And are you finding evidence for the ones that serve you? Or are you finding evidence for the ones that hold you back and keep you stuck? Be on to yourself. Notice that your thoughts exactly that – they are thoughts. They are merely sentences in your brain. And you get to choose the story you tell yourself. So why not make it a good one?
All right my friends. That’s going to do it for us this week. And if you know someone who would love learning more about how intentionally choose their thoughts and create their results, would you a rockstar and either share this episode with them or take a screenshot and post it on your Instagram stories?
Also, if you’re feeling super distracted or you’re struggling to maintain your focus and your concentration, then I think you might love my free training where I share my top strategies to boost your focus and concentration all in under 40 minutes. The training is waiting for you right now! So simply head to imbusybeingawesome.com/focus and check it out.
Until next time, keep being awesome. I’ll talk with you soon.