Do you have an idea for a product that you want to make, like an online course?
Have you been thinking about this idea for longer than six months? Longer than a year? Maybe even more than a few years?!
That was me until early 2021—and I know I’m in good company. Many of us come up with riveting product ideas that excite us, and then we sit on them for way too long. It can be frustrating, especially if you know in your heart of hearts that your product can really help people.
Getting stuck between knowing exactly what you want to do and actually moving forward with it can feel like procrastination, but the reason for standstills usually runs deeper than that. Our beliefs are often what gets in the way.
As I say in my work as an eating psychology coach: when our beliefs and actions don’t match, self-sabotage happens. We subconsciously block ourselves from reaching our goals if our thoughts—especially our subconscious thoughts—don’t match our behavior.
It’s not a lack of willpower that keeps us from taking steps toward our goals. That’s the good news! Most entrepreneurs have plenty of ambition and willpower. Rather, the problem is that we just don’t have access to it sometimes. Essentially, we’re blocked. And my theory is that these blocks occur when we don’t know which limiting beliefs are standing in the way.
So, how do we discover what’s in the way? How do we go from feeling stuck to taking action? I’d like to explain, starting with a story.
How to Uncover Your Beliefs
When I started my blog in 2018, I had one vision: to eventually create a sellable online course to help my people. And I already had everything I needed to get started.
Because I had experience in the marketing industry, I already understood a lot of the fundamentals, such as inbound marketing, SEO, lead generation, and email marketing. To top it off, I already knew the solution (the framework for my online course) that would ultimately help my people.
Given that I had allll this information, you can imagine how frustrated I was with myself for sitting on my online course idea for three years… yes, three years. While I did create several e-books and smaller digital products during those three years, my “big idea” of an online course remained just an idea. And I could almost kick myself for how simple the solution was: journaling.
One specific journal exercise helped me break free from my blocks after three years of sitting on my idea. It originally started as freestyle journaling, but I later developed an affectionate name for the exercise I did that day: The Repetitive Why Exercise.
As I was scribbling away about my blocks, I continued to ask myself why. And I found that asking repetitively helped me dig deeper and deeper into the reasons why I was stuck.
Want to give it a try? Here are the steps for the Repetitive Why Exercise:
- Write down your problem.
- Ask yourself why. Why is that problem an issue?
- Reflect on your answer, and ask yourself why again.
- Write down something new, and ask yourself why again.
- Repeat as many times as you can stand to, or until you have an “a-ha” moment.
Also, be sure to actually write it down. You can’t think this exercise through in your head. You really can’t. The magic happens when we put our thoughts onto paper.
Here’s what I wrote, back when I initially did this:
Question: Why am I not making my online course?
Answer: Because I’m afraid I won’t do it perfectly.
Why?: Because I’m afraid I won’t hit the nail on the head, and someone won’t resonate with my work.
Why?: Because I’m trying too hard to please every single person.
Why?: Because I’m afraid someone will ask for a refund.
Boom. That was it for me. Once I realized I was stalling on my dreams just to avoid a possible refund, it felt ridiculous. I couldn’t believe that I was letting something that small stop me from pursuing my dreams.
It wasn’t too much of a surprise, though. I already knew I was adverse to rejection (who isn’t?). But there was something about seeing it written down in black and white that just made something… click.
My fear shrank. It didn’t go away completely—but I got the chance to put a finger on it. Once we gain awareness like this, we can finally access that mountain of willpower and ambition!
Action becomes accessible at last.
The Turning Point
The day after I finished this journal exercise, I kicked into action. I started working like a madwoman, creating my slide decks, voiceovers, bonuses, all the things.
Within two months of frenzied production, I cranked out a beta version of my course and launched it. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive—with one person asking for a refund—dun dun dun.
But honestly, I smiled about that refund! I thought to myself, This is it! This is the thing I was so afraid of! And it’s not a big deal. I received all that positive feedback from people who were the right fit. One refund is easy.
Sometimes, our fears feel much bigger than they actually are. But when they swim around in our subconscious, they are out of sight and out of mind. They fester and turn into procrastination and self-sabotage unless we do something to shine a light on them.
Looking back, my big, scary beliefs originally looked something like this: It will be the end of the world if someone asks for a refund. I must make a perfect product that everyone will love so that no one is upset that I took their money.
These beliefs stopped me from taking action because making a perfect product is impossible. What felt like procrastination (for three years!) was really my subconscious brain reacting to the fear of rejection.
After doing the Repetitive Why Exercise, my beliefs turned into something like this: It would not be the end of the world if someone asks for a refund. I must make a great product for the right person, and that right person will love it!
These beliefs are much more productive, and they helped me get unstuck. I went from procrastination-mode to frenzied-production-mode overnight, and the rest is history.
By putting pen to paper and focusing on a single word—why?—you can discover incredible insight into your subconscious belief system. You can pinpoint the limiting beliefs that stand in the way and, with that awareness, shift your beliefs and kick into action.
The next time you feel stuck, I hope you give the Repetitive Why Exercise a try and see what comes up. Hopefully, it saves you months—or even years!—of wasted time so that you can go out and chase your dreams.
Kari Dahlgren is an eating psychology coach who helps heart-centered women stop overeating and feel normal around food. On her website, Kari uses an Interact quiz to engage with her audience and make meaningful connections. Take her quiz to discover your eating psychology strength!