What really stops you being on top of some things?

The people who really know about these things are pretty united in agreeing that what I call resourcefulness is one of six key strengths that can keep you and me psychologically strong.

More scientifically, psychologists label it “environmental mastery,” describing it as having the competence to meet the needs of your situation.

I do rather like the alternative term resourcefulness, however – defined in my dictionary as “the ability to find … ways to overcome difficulties.”

The phrase environmental mastery feels less clear to me.

For some reason I can’t help thinking of someone doing a rain dance or having the ability to put the brakes on global warming.

When I reflect on my own resourcefulness, I sense that I’m strong in some areas, but decidedly weaker in others.

Perhaps you’ll have a similar view of your own abilities?

Allow me to describe a couple of examples from my own experience, so you can see where I’m coming from.

Let’s begin with something I’m good at. Grocery shopping rarely seems a problem for me.

Although I couldn’t exactly rustle up a four-course dinner at the drop of a hat, my cupboards and fridge generally have the essentials in stock, which I top up seemingly effortlessly.

So we can check that cereal box.

What about my weaknesses, though?

Well, recently I’ve been struggling to put together what is effectively a slide presentation about the app I’m currently developing.

I’ve collected some of its content, but something is stopping me sitting down to actually do the work.

If it’s helpful – and it was to me – I recently thought about barriers and motivations in terms of my own resourcefulness.

A barrier is something that stops you finding a way to overcome a challenge, while a motivation is the carrot that drives you to action.

Like so many aspects of life, I think it’s all about balance.

There will always be barriers, just as there will always be motivations, but action only becomes relatively frictionless when one considerably outweighs the other.

I think my ease with grocery shopping is relatively easy to explain.

I enjoy food, and also like knowing I can provide it to someone who visits: so there’s my motivation.

The supposed barrier (remembering to go shopping, and actually doing it) is trivial in comparison.

My reluctance to tackle this slide presentation, however, is harder to get my head around.

The motivation seems reasonably straightforward.

When I have a presentation about the app’s potential, I can use it to persuade others to back it, hopefully, or work with me.

And this would be good.

What causes me to scratch my head, though, is when it comes to identifying the barriers.

It’s difficult for me to even think about this (let alone actually write about it, as I’m doing right now) but it’s possible I’m aware that when I finish the presentation I’m actually going to have to, you know, show it to someone.


And I think I’ve somehow got it into my subconscious that this ill-defined someone will be scary, intimidating, and hostile.

This is, of course, a catastrophically negative way for me to view things, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there may be more than a grain of truth to it.

So here’s what I’ve thought of doing.

In order to address this barrier, maybe I can reframe my motivation?

Instead of worrying about presenting my document to Elon Musk (just kidding, of course) how about agreeing with myself that I’ll share it with someone who could be helpful without also making me feel like Daniel in the lion’s den, or Lionel in the Dragon’s Den.

I could also commit to a specific date and time to share it.

To me (and only just now) this seems like it would be a useful strategy.

So, that’s me sorted out, then. Well, hopefully.

More importantly, maybe you’ll now identify a specific part of your own life, in which you’re not being quite as resourceful as you’d choose.

It could be helpful to begin by recognising a strength first, though, so you don’t get too disillusioned.

When you do focus on a specific weakness, one is a fine place to start – please don’t try to tackle your entire life in one complicated chunk.

Maybe have a think about what your real barrier is.

What’s truly stopping you achieving this action that you want, or need, to complete?

Once you have a clearer picture, it may be possible to create a new motivation, one that works better for you.

A simple example might be someone who wished to start going to the gym, but who identified that his barrier was being super self-conscious about feeling embarrassed and out of place when he went there (his imagination had told him that everyone else would be toned and trim, even though that’s almost certainly a misconception).

Resetting his motivation, however, might involve asking a friend if they’d join him on a long walk once a week, therefore combining exercise and good conversation, while also avoiding those imaginary lycra-clad gym bunnies.

Making the most of your life means managing your life (better).

How could you start making that happen?

Right, I think it’s time for me to ask the person who isn’t Elon Musk if he’ll agree to become my Mr. Motivator.

4 thoughts on “What really stops you being on top of some things?

  1. Thank you Jon. I find it useful to think of the terms “resourcefulness”, “motivation”, and “obstacles” in helping me to accomplish more of what I would want in life. Your reflection has actually made me aware of some areas in my life that I have “put on hold”. To be fair, about a year ago I did need “time out” and decided to quit my job and overall redirect the course of my life. I slammed on the brakes and stoped the direction of my life at the time. I’m glad I did, but it’s time to get some aspects of my life moving again. I need to find a “direction” for them. Your ideas will be very helpful to me. Thank you. As always, your gentleness and directness make me feel accompanied, understood.

    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful response, Maria. Apologies for not having touched base with you before now. I sincerely hope you’ll be able to gently re-start those aspects of your life that may need a small nudge

  2. “It’s difficult for me to even think about this (let alone actually write about it, as I’m doing right now) but it’s possible I’m aware that when I finish the presentation I’m actually going to have to, you know, show it to someone. Eek. And I think I’ve somehow got it into my subconscious that this ill-defined someone will be scary, intimidating, and hostile.”

    Jon, you’ve just hit upon the main reason why I was never able to complete any scripts I’d begin, one after another, for almost 30 years. It wasn’t until my desire to actually write an entire feature length screenplay was stronger than my fear of having to show it to industry professionals and have them reject it and possibly judge me as a terrible unimaginative writer. I lacked that inner resourcefulness of accepting my strengths as a writer, discounting years of evidence to the contrary.

    I allowed my fear of rejection convince me that I wasn’t strong enough to write on my own and needed a writing partner to offset my creative weaknesses. I even went so far as to let myself get sucked into a dysfunctional romantic relationship with a former co-worker who was supposedly writing a book, who agreed to help me with my writing if I helped him with his. But after four months of not being able to produce even an outline, he unexpectedly dumped me to return to his ex-girlfriend. (Who was not a writer, what a surprise.) I saw the warning signs early on but conveniently ignored them. I let my fear convince me that I couldn’t write without him, even to the point of letting him brag about his renewed relationship while I nursed my broken heart, in order to preserve our alleged writing partnership. Which he thankfully toasted along with our friendship two weeks later.

    It took a long time to overcome my fear of rejection for my writing as well as accept my writing weaknesses as challenges to work on rather than as justifications for not writing. I have two completed scripts and three in development, one of which is a fast-paced farce with many subplots I’ve always wanted to tackle but previously lacked the courage to attempt solo. And I wouldn’t have been able to do this had I not finally questioned my false self-narrative about needing a writing partner in order to actually write.

    1. Judi, I’m so sorry I didn’t respond to your very thought-provoking reflection before now. I think it can’t have been easy writing it, and I do hope you didn’t think it had fallen through a crack in the floorboards.

      How absolutely great that you have indeed overcome your fear of writing, and—goodness me—it sounds as though you’re going through a tremendously productive phase. Can’t wait to see those movies!

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