Fear, Accountability, and How to Get Things Done

Fear, accountability, and how to get things done
Are those my feet?

Confession time. I am the worst for planning to do something, and then not doing it.

The thing in question could be as simple as sending an email to someone new, or writing a blog post, or even replying to a text message. This tendency to avoidance is fairly textbook introvert behaviour, and is something that I’ve struggled with my whole life. Far safer and more peaceful to keep my ideas inside my head rather than putting them out into the world; and so much safer than the horror and stress of having to get Other People involved.

I’m not afraid to admit that this trait holds me back, in my work and my life. I can recite for you a litany of opportunities missed, connections not made, and chances squandered because I held back and did not commit, did not follow through. Well, not any more dammit, not any more.

Every Wednesday night Kat Molesworth, founder of the amazing Blogtacular conference and writer at Housewife Confidential, hosts the Blogtacular Twitter chat. Earlier this week the conversation, held every Wednesday at 9pm UK time under #blogtacular, centred around making big leaps in our work and lives, what was holding us back, and how to move past our fears and make exciting things happen. The conversation was inspiring, empowering, and for a risk-averse introvert like myself, a beautiful reminder that I Am Not Alone.

How many other people struggle against themselves every day, against their fears and their self doubt, against no real odds or barriers at all save for the ones they create for themselves? My hand is waving frantically in the air at this point, as I suspect are many others.

A theme of the Blogtacular conversation that really resonated with me was accountability and publicly committing to the things that you want to achieve. For me this is a big step – as I mentioned before it is easier, and far safer, to keep my ideas in my head and out of the public eye. So I settled on relaunching my newsletter as a first step, something I have wanted to do for months now but have always managed to find a reason not to. I shared my intentions, set myself a deadline, and sat down to write. What surprised me was how easy this was. In my mind sorting out my newsletter was a huge, insurmountable challenge that would take forever. But broken down into a little chunk of planning here, a chunk of writing there, a chunk of tweeting there, somehow the elephant in the room was reduced to a handful of rather friendly mice.

The final step I want to take is to make myself accountable here. So here it is.

I am forever amazed by the ways that we express ourselves in writing. The words that we choose, the techniques we use to circumnavigate our creative blocks. What we can do to create rhythm and simplicity in the practice of writing, and our wider creative lives.

Once a month I sit down at my kitchen table and pour out these thoughts and ideas into a letter for my community, called my Afternoon Stories. Come and join me for writing tips and practices, creative prompts, and support for bringing your stories to life on the page.

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New letters are sent out on the last Sunday of every month.

So now I extend the challenge to you. What do you want to make happen, and what holds you back? If there is one thing I have learned this week, it is that being accountable for our hopes and plans is far more empowering than it is terrifying.

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What do you think?

  • As a lifelong introvert, I totally empathize. For me, I call it the “What if” syndrome. What if this goes wrong or It doesn’t go exactly as I planned in my head. I recently set and met a goal of making myself a new pair of shorts for summer. These are my first pair of shorts resulting in something less than perfect. However I will wear them with great pride. Good luck to you and your goals!

    • I’ve had this so often with sewing projects that didn’t quite go according to plan, but I found it ends up feeling so good to just wear them. Liberating almost. Enjoy them!

  • I’m an introvert too and am currently holding back on promoting my book *in person*! I told myself I’d spend this year promoting it … and suddenly we’re in April and I’ve not done a fraction of what I intended. I’ve got it into one local gallery gift shop, and have emailed another local shop … but can’t bring myself to just go in a ask people to stock it!

    That said … I’ve really reduced how much I criticise myself for not being an entirely different person – the person who would find this all so easy.

    I can’t help being introverted. This is me. I’m working with what I’ve got. And yes – I will, and do, push myself, my boundaries, my edges … but I also go gently with myself too. If I was a different person, the book wouldn’t be the same book … I guess I have to learn to work with what’s here, what’s me, what feels right. It’s all about the permission isn’t it?

    • Definitely – permission is critical, and remembering that actually most of the time all we have to do it give ourselves permission to go after what we want. And yes, I don’t think that introversion is something to be fought against, it’s a part of who we are, we just have to learn how to turn it into a strength and a superpower, rather than something that holds us back. Good luck with your book promotion, I really hope it goes well for you!

  • Risk-averse introvert here too (hello!). I’ve started to notice recently that success is often more about people following through than about them having the most skill/knowledge or the very very best ideas; a reasonably good idea, seen through thoroughly to completion, is bound to be more successful than an AMAZING idea that never gets finished. Perseverance is worth a great deal. But I don’t think commitment/perseverance and public accountability are necessarily related, and you might be interested in the research summarised in this article: http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/is-it-good-or-bad-to-talk-about-your-goals/ .

    • Thank you for sharing this article, and I completely agree with your point about following through. I find it’s about balance – there’s no point in being super vocal about every goal to cover up that you’re not actually doing anything! I like to use the accountability approach for clear, tangible steps en route to a larger goal, like working on my newsletter as one part of developing my writing and my blog. But I know that if I were to use the same approach to get me to practice the piano more (I’m so badly lapsed it’s not even funny) it just wouldn’t work. Once I figure out how to nail that one there will be a whole new post…