Notes from Merseyside
I'm gazing out of a train window at the English countryside, traveling from Liverpool to London. Over the past two days, I've been with a dear friend and mentor of mine, someone I've known for several years.
While we spent time catching up on life, a few words from him particularly resonated with me, especially in light of my quest to live more freely — embracing new experiences without the paralyzing fear of making mistakes and nurturing self-compassion when mistakes inevitably happen. This is what he told me:
Don’t confuse reasons with excuses
In this context, we defined an “excuse” is a weak basis for inaction that can be easily addressed or overcome, while a “reason” offers a genuine and logical basis for inaction.
It's not uncommon to self-criticize, believing you're just procrastinating or merely offering up excuses. We spoke about the harsh inner critic that knocks us down because we haven’t reached certain milestones that our peers have reached. However, this criticism can be misplaced when, in reality, you have genuine reasons for previous inaction. Our expectations for ourselves are sometimes too high.
Reflecting on our lives, there are have been external factors beyond our control that have paused our progress:
- Family problems — this could be a death of a close family member, divorce, caring of aging parents, and the birth of a child takes a heavy toll on your physical and mental health. Some of these events happen suddenly and take priority (and rightfully so) over anything professional. It can take a while to find your feet before diving into something new and that’s ok. You’re human after all.
- Immigration — your immigration status in particularly country especially if you're not a citizen, can greatly influence the professional risks you're able to undertake. Having lived in a few countries on student and temporary work visas, it is challenging to make significant decisions like starting a company or buying a house when you’re uncertain about which country you’ll be living in next year. Thankfully, I now possess the immigration stability necessary to think long-term.
“What I’m worried about with you is you hesitate,” my mentor remarked as we split a bottle of wine at the kitchen island. I knew exactly what he meant. Another friend had pointed out earlier this month that I’m really talented but he feels “major imposter syndrome” makes me hesitate.
I’m grateful to have close, secure friendships that can give me such frank insights. I noticed that the act of this feedback from other people that care about me is half the battle. Now, it is easier for me to notice the moments I’m paralyzed by my own analysis and fear. My hesitation was largely unconscious until my friends helped bring it into the light of consciousness.
The awareness gives me the opportunity to choose differently — to have a bias for action.
This time in my life feels special. I have a reasonable opportunity and the stability to take action towards things I’ve always wanted to do. This is the time to build the muscle for taking action. And the only way to do that is by taking action.