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Overcoming the "How" Hurdle

Aug 18, 2007
As a coach, I'm privileged to be part of a process where my clients create a new and exciting vision for their lives and take action towards it. The excitement is palpable as they connect with what's truly important to them. But often they'll hit what I call, the "How Hurdle". "How will I do that?" or "How can I get myself from here to there?" The excitement starts to deflate as they focus on not knowing the clear answers to the "How" Hurdle.

Think of a hurdler, about to take off from the starting blocks. Looking up, the finish line is not even visible to the hurdler. What do they see? Nothing but a line of tall, solid, ominous hurdles blocking their way to their goal.

It's the same for us in our lives. We want to get somewhere but we don't know "how." Many head for the dressing room before the race to the finish line even starts. I'd like to share simple ways to overcome this phenomenon of the "How" Hurdle.

1. "How?" isn't as important as "Where?" and "Why?"

Our brain likes to solve problems, so it naturally prompts that "how" question. The more important and empowering questions to ask yourself are "where" and "why." Where do you want to go? Why do you want to reach that new goal? Why is it important for you to learn how to solve that problem? The answers to the "where" and "why" will motivate and energize you to find the "how" as you take action. Ghandi didn't get too hung up on "how" he'd get the British to give India its independence. Instead he held steadfastly and articulately to his vision and then followed a course of action that revealed itself as he went along.

2. Build a Big "Why"

If your "why" is big enough, you'll figure out the "how." You just hunker down and start doing whatever it takes to get the job done. If a family member required urgent medical treatment, it wouldn't take long for you to take action, would it? You're motivated, so you'd ask a lot of questions of the doctor or others, go online to research, or pick up the yellow pages to look for support groups.

Connecting to your "why" commits you to action. Commitment is the key to knocking those "How" Hurdles down. The "how" will appear once you make the commitment to your "why." In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred ... unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way."

3. "How?" is Based on Your Past

The question "How?" can be answered and referenced from your previous knowledge and experience. Getting hung up on whether you know exactly "how" you're going to get somewhere you've never been is going to keep you stuck. Going somewhere new requires you to become a bit of an explorer and adventurer in your life. Your future path may not look like anything you've experienced before. So give yourself permission to move ahead into uncharted waters even if you're not exactly sure how to answer the "how."

4. "I Don't Know How" as an Excuse

Have you ever used the phrase "I don't know how" as an excuse for inaction? Perhaps you really meant, "I'm not ready to move forward" or "My goal isn't really clear or important enough to me." It's more empowering and accurate to be honest about it, especially with ourselves, than stand behind an excuse.

What would you say to a young child who said "I don't know how" in the face of a new challenge? You'd most likely let them know that it's OK to make mistakes and learn from them. You assure them that it's natural to not know how to do something new and that's why we all have to practice. You'd tell them of course you can't know how to do everything under the sun, but that you can learn if it's important to you. It's pretty sound advice - so I'd encourage all of us to take it too!

5. Never mind the Naysayers

So you're ready to try something new, despite your own questions about how you'll succeed. You share your new goal with someone and poof! -- they turn into a dream-stealer. You're grilled with questions like, "So how exactly are you going to do that?" Unfortunately, some of those naysayers are people who are the closest to us. They have a great skill for putting more "How" Hurdles up on the track.

The best strategy is to not let them stop you. Take a moment to share your "why" with them and how it's going to look at feel for you to accomplish that goal. Invite them to support you by brainstorming how you could accomplish the goal. Share your commitment to doing whatever it will take to cross the finish line and that you're open to learning more about how exactly you'll get there.

Take Action Now!

First, get clear on where you want to go and why. Have a vivid picture of what it will look and feel like to be across the finish line. Second, declare to yourself that you're committed to crossing the finish line. Finally, every time you hear yourself say or think "I don't know how," add the phrase "but I'm willing to learn!" Reframe your thoughts and watch the "How" Hurdles tumble!
About the Author
Carolyn B. Ellis, author, spiritual divorce coach and founder of Thrive After Divorce Inc. If you want simple life-changing tips for single parenting, visit Thrive After Divorce now to receive a FREE report.
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