Why you won’t do what you know you should do

Posted by:

In this article I am going to explain why you don’t do the things that you know you should be doing and, more importantly, how to get past what blocks you.

Before you read further think about an action that you should be taking but aren’t. You know what I am talking about. The obvious action that you think about all the time, but never do. The one that would make a huge difference to your business or your life.

Make a note of it and then carry on reading.


The thought of some doing things brings up feelings of happiness and joy. Others bring discomfort and misery.

As someone interested in creating elite performance I go below the surface to understand what drives your preference for some activities over others. This has taught me something interesting.

‘When it comes to the things you don’t like doing the problem is not the action. The problem is the thinking that precedes it.’


Cold call Tuesday

How would you react if I walked into your office today and said “its cold calling Tuesday. Stop what you are doing, collect your prospect list from me and get dialing”?

I have a handful of clients, and members of their teams, who would love this but a whole load more who would go into meltdown. Your reaction would be determined by what you take to mean by the activity (i.e. what it means to ‘cold call’) and how you see yourself relative to the activity (i.e. what cold calling means to you).

Where is the feeling coming from

When you are confronted with a particular activity you will have an internal feeling (somewhere between gut wrenching fear or pure joy) associated with it. Have you ever stopped to think where is that reaction coming from?

The positive or negative reactions you have to different actions arise from the unique view of the world that you have constructed in your head. It’s a story that you have built up over the course of your life about who you are and how you fit in.

When you think about a particular activity this story either empowers you to take the action or disempowers you. If it disempowers you then you will adopt any number of strategies to avoid taking the action (procrastination, excuses and deferment being my personal favorites).

There is always a positive intention behind this inaction. It is your way of keeping yourself safe and comfortable.

But whatever it is that you are striving to achieve will not be available from a place of safety. How do I know? Because, if it was, you would already have it.

How to escape inaction

Many coaches and self-development types try to develop your positive mindset, using tools like affirmations and visualisations. All this in the hope that from a positive mental place you will take action.

This may achieve some short-term results but it will not result in the transformation that comes from insightfully seeing how you are constructing your own experience of any action.

Also as your coach I don’t want you to associate any particular activity with any particular mind set . Once you think that ‘Activity A’ requires ‘Mindset A’ it creates a new set of excuses for not taking action e.g. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to deal with this team member / call this customer / have this conversation.

So here are three ideas for you to explore (now would be a good time to recall the particular action / activity you are struggling with)

Move yourself

It is rarely the action itself that is the problem. It is how you are looking at it and thinking about it that has got you stuck. Try to address the action from a new mental or physical standpoint by

  • physically moving. Stand up walk about, breathe, go outside. Your body always reflects your thinking so sometimes movement can change your thinking and create action
  • asking yourself ‘what would it feel like to be OK with doing this?’. This is a powerful question because it cannot be answered with changing how you relate to the action
  • Recognizing that an imaginary blockage exists. When you realise that your inactivity is created by a mind block, as opposed to something that is real, it can liberate you from the trap and get you into action.

The way you feel about different activities gets expressed in two ways; the thoughts that consciously occur to you and the way your body positions itself. It therefore follows that re-positioning your body can reset the way you think about a particular course of action.


Recognise that you are meant to evolve

You are in a state of continuous evolution. As life emerges around you it is easy to think that you are the one thing that is constant and unchanging. In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. Events are continually shaping and refining how you see the world and interact with it, as well as the results that different actions achieve.

You are not who you were yesterday. The activities that you do or don’t like constantly change as you test and refine the edge of your comfort zone.

The results that different actions obtain will also change. Just because it didn’t work last year is no indicator of its outcome today. Without action there is no feedback.


Anticipation or Afterglow

There are some activities that deliver good feelings while you are doing them (sex, eating cake, coaching clients – not in any deliberate order) and some that only give you the warm hit of satisfaction when they are done (sales calls, the gym, the difficult conversation).

I don’t know why the world got set up this way but it did so get over it and get on with it.

In my own experience I can get right in my head in the build up to going to a class at the gym, to the point where I will literally be talking myself out of going. But I override this feeling by remembering the experience of elation at the end of session.


Now tell me again, what is it you are not doing that you should be?

Let’s talk.