When you start to fall so far behind on your goals and deadlines that it feels too late for you to ever catch up, it’s time to take a closer look at where you’re selecting your heroes. We’re going to adjust your examples so you can let go of the stuff that’s outside your control and establish full focus to hit your targets. Whether you’re 8 or 89, it’s never too late to build the life you want, and I can help redirect your goals so you can get back on track.
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Welcome to the Cara Brookins Show, this is where you’ll find all the tools you need to get unstuck and build a better life. I know what it feels like to need a friend to talk you through the hard stuff. From cleaning off your desk, to building a new desk, or even rebuilding your entire life from scratch, I’ll be here with you for every step. Let’s get moving and build exactly the life you want.
Sometimes it seems like other people are a lot more put together than I am with all the things they get done in a single day. Are there some hidden hours available to some of you? Because, whew. I just can’t keep up. Let’s talk today about comparing ourselves to each other and how we can do this is a constructive way.
I hope your day is going well and that you feel caught up on everything. This is one of those days where I woke up feeling like I was behind on every big plan I’ve made. Sometimes, when I feel that way, it kind of charges me up and I work double time to get caught up. And other days, I feel so far behind that it doesn’t feel like it’s even worth trying to catch up. Does that sound familiar?
All the goals from last week, last month, maybe even last year and beyond just keep getting shoved forward and things way beyond your control keep you from getting any closer to them. You’re just stuck in some kind of hamster wheel and you can’t escape.
This happened to my oldest daughter Hope on her last birthday. She felt this in the biggest way. Really, she had a little bit of a birthday breakdown and she said to me in this desperate voice, “I feel like I’m five years behind where I’m supposed to be.”
I felt so bad for her, because I knew how that felt. And I knew how hard she was working and just not getting the breaks she needed to see the progress she deserved. We’ve all been there at some point. You’re left wondering why you even bother setting goals in the first place?
Well, setting goals is a great practice, at least until you end up with a mountain of unmet ones piling up in the corner. Maybe it’s partially your fault. Maybe you could have tried harder. But a lot of times life just happens in unexpected ways and the goals or milestones we plan to hit, don’t happen. And that’s fine at first because we’re grown ups and we can deal with a bit of disappointment, as long as we still feel like these things will EVENTUALLY happen. Like we can play catch up. Maybe do a different goal now and do that other one later.
Just a little minor goal shuffling. But if the failures pile up really, really high, we start to feel exactly like hope did, and we have a birthday breakdown.
It’s hard to even explain how unusual this is for Hope on her birthday, because Birthdays have always, always been her favorite thing in the whole world. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.
Our whole family jokes that Happy Birthday is basically her theme song. When she was a little girl growing up, she played ‘birthday’ constantly. It was like an endless and really extreme tea party that a kid will just NOT let go. A couple times a week we all gave in and wore homemade party hats decorated with glitter (that stuff always fell off and got in our eyes) We put birthday candles in everything from cheese cubes to tuna sandwiches. A little birthday candle wax makes everything taste better, right? It was never ending, all year round.
Oh, and Hope’s actual birthday? Well, it was the most important day of her year. And she got the whole family involved in planning her party for MONTHS before her big day. Color scheme. Food display. Gift bags. I have made a LOT of piñatas.
Well today, birthdays are still her thing. There’s less glitter at least, but she still follows a long list of—kinda weird—birthday rituals year after year.
You guys know people like this, people who plan ahead with a zillion details?
I’m not one of those people—I guess I didn’t have to be because Hope was planning everything for me. She’s pretty extreme. And besides parties, she also planned every details and milestone of her life to this same level. We’re talking month by month and year by year she laid out her future in her planners—the planners that she would get on a waiting list for in like July every year so she’d have the best new planner every January. I know. I know. It’s disgusting isn’t it!
But all of a sudden, last year, everything went haywire. Birthdays took on a whole new meaning for her. And it wasn’t good. Her birthday starting feeling like a reminder that she wasn’t where she thought she would be in life. She’d look at her planner and realize not only had she missed this year’s goal, but she hadn’t hit last year’s yet either. Cue the birthday tears. But instead of her little kid tears over a misplaced bag of perfectly pink balloons, she felt like she was misplacing whole years of her life. Until she reached that point of saying to me, “But mommy, I feel like I’m 5 years behind.”
Boom! It hit me hard. Because I knew exactly what she meant, and I felt that too. No, wait that didn’t sound right. I don’t mean I felt that HOPE was 5 years behind. I wasn’t agreeing with her. I just realized that I also had this nagging feeling like I was five years behind on all of the things I wanted to do. And it’s not because either one of us had been sitting around doing nothing.
We’d both been working our tails off the entire time. My project list is full, you know that. I work really hard. I put in a lot of long hours seven days a week reaching for my goals.
But here I was feeling behind just like Hope because there’s always more that I not only want to do, but more that I feel like I SHOULD do. Or even worse, things that I feel like I should have already finished. And once that feeling creeps in, it’s even harder to start. I mean, how do you build up enthusiasm and excitement to do something that’s really difficult, if you feel bad about it before you even start? Let me guess. you can’t.
So the cycle continues. And before you know it you feel even more and more behind with less and less done every day and you start to feel stuck in place. Too paralyzed to make any move at all. This all feels really heavy. You feel weary. And you don’t know how to get out from under all of it. We’ve all been there.
But hang on a minute. There’s something I’ve learned about you and me experiencing the same kinds of emotions like this. If we’re all feeling this way, then the problem is not with how much we are or aren’t accomplishing, it has something to do with the way our human brains process things. And do you know what that means?
It means that once we understand what our mind is doing, we can find a way to use this to our advantage instead of using it as a hammer to beat ourselves up with. So what’s going on up there?
Well, all humans naturally compare themselves to the humans around us. We do this to make sure we fit in. This goes back to our cave man and cave lady roots, because fitting in with the group was the only way you were going to survive against saber tooth cats and harsh weather. We needed to do things as well as the people around us in order to keep our spot around the cave fire. But here’s something really interesting.
We make these comparisons in two directions, upward comparison, to see who is doing better than us—which motivates us to work harder. And downward comparisons to see who is doing worse than us and that boosts our self-worth, “At least I’m doing better than that guy.” And honestly, both of these are pretty positive things for us to do. Under normal circumstances, both result in us working harder and feeling good about ourselves. But is there anything normal about the way we all watch each other now on social media?
And that’s a problem. Our brain developed this way of looking at other people and making a social comparison and it was a really good thing—back in the cave man days, and really for a long time after that when we were looking at our family, friends, and neighbors. But now, when our comparison is every photoshopped and polished story on the internet, this kinda breaks the way this process was designed to work. Let’s break down how this goes wrong and what we can do to fix it.
. . .
Before we dig into those details, we’re going to take a short break.
Do you have an idea that you just haven’t been able to get off the ground? Or maybe you worked on it for a while and then got stuck? And even though you still love the idea—can’t get it out of your head, you just have no idea how to get unstuck.
If you could *just* take all the time you spent putting off a project, and put that time into doing the work to reach your target it would change everything. Take the distractions, the extra coffee breaks, TikTok videos, and Netflix binges and instead spend all those hours, weeks, sometimes years making real progress toward your goal.
If procrastination has been holding you back, my course Build Something can help.
I’ve put EVERY SINGLE THING you need to build your ridiculously big project into Build Something. All the strategies, tactics, and methods I used (and still use) to successfully turn my big ideas into real-life projects and finish them. #BuildSomething will teach you how to: plan your projects, get started, take action, actually do the work, work through the hard parts, and stay motivated until you reach your goal.
This is your chance to get unstuck and start the project of your dreams so you can #BuildSomething you’re proud of.
. . .
And now, back to the show.
Imagine that you’re scrolling on social media and pause on a video of someone baking Christmas cookies. It’s a one-minute video with sneaky little cuts and time lapses that speed that timeline up until BAM, in one min flat they measured, mixed, chilled, rolled, cut, baked, and decorated the perfect cookies. The video cuts as they pass a plate of them to their neighbor.
And here you are. You haven’t baked your neighbor any cookies yet this year. In fact, you haven’t done that once in the five years you’ve lived here. You feel kinda bad. I mean, couldn’t you take one minute of your time to bake some cookies?
Do you see where we’re going with this? I think you do. We’re measuring ourselves against an edited, filtered, photoshopped, and time lapsed version of someone else.
It didn’t really take them one minute to make the cookies. They left out the trip to the store to buy ingredients, and pre-measuring everything into cute little cups. They cut out the baking, and the cooling, and mixing the frosting. They cut out the 75 other times they practiced making cookies. And the sheet they burned and threw away because the dog rolled in something dead and had to have an emergency bath. And they most definitely cut out doing the mountain of dishes. Most of reality is cut from that video.
It’s tricky, but it’s not like they were out there trying to fool you. Or trying to make you feel bad. And the logical part of your brain KNOWS it took them longer. It KNOWS about the time lapse and cuts and practice. But, this type of social comparison we make is part of the old section of our brain and it never asks the logical part of the brain if this is really the full picture. It just makes a rapid comparison, and says, “Nope. Sorry, sweetheart. You don’t measure up. You’re behind. You’re going to lose that spot around the cave fire.”
And suddenly you feel very, very alone. Like you’re not part of the group anymore.
And these comparisons, they happen: All. Day. Long.
Same thing with the five-minute video of rebuilding a motorcycle, engine and all. Or building an entire house. It really feels like other people are out there doing massive things in short order and you’re way behind. Oh, and don’t forget when the next video pops up of this girl who just launched her million dollar business—before her 13th birthday.
And there you are. Feeling decades behind. How will you ever catch up? You can’t make up that kinda time. Not with all the demands you have on you. Not today. Not next month. Probably never, you tell yourself. Because it feels impossible when you feel like you missed the ideal time to start a blog or get that perfect location for your business or to do that thing way back when your body was in tip top shape. The more time we spend on social media and YouTube, the more we’re seeing all the ways that we’re not making the cut. And the worse we feel.
Sometimes feeling like you’re behind in life is the worst kind of feeling stuck. Because it feels helpless. Your calendar at 13 didn’t land you on American Idol or the cover of Forbes. You can’t go back and make that happen now, not without a time machine. So, it feels like no matter what you do, you’ll never catch up.
It all really comes down to this: you’re comparing yourself to the wrong people. I’m not going to tell you to stop looking around to see where you fit, because that would be silly, your brain is literally built to do that and you will keep doing that. But remember the cave ladies and gents were looking directly at real people. So they could see that the guy who made the best spears this side of the forest spent 17 hours a day working on his spear craft and accomplished nothing else. He was a terrible cook and couldn’t hit the broad side of a brontosaurus with one of his fabulous spears. It was about specialization and talents. It was about the time put in to learn a thing. It was about being the best you on your own timeline. It was about that then—and it’s about that now.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s never too late to build what you want to build.
Never. It’s never too late to build what you want to build.
All you have to do is get up right now and start putting in the time and focus on one big project. Stop comparing yourself to a tiny moment that someone else shares. And instead, focus on the full picture of that one big project that you’re doing right now. Look at your actions and make sure they’re big enough to hit your goal. Life moves in one direction only, straight ahead, forward, in a straight timeline. It always has and it always will. And the only thing you have to do to keep your life moving in that direction, is to focus forward, directly on your goal and get moving. One step. Then another. That’s how you get unstuck. And this is a lot easier than you probably think it will be.
You hear stories all the time of people who one day just finally started that big, life-changing project. Of even people who are a lot older than you are right now rediscovering themselves with a second career, a new life passion at 80 or 90 years old even. They prove that you’re never so far behind that you should give up. And did you know there is one common thread in all of those stories? It’s true.
People who are making big things happen at ANY age aren’t making their social comparisons on social media. They get out in the world and connect with people to get a full view of a project’s scope. People who take on big projects are people who keep looking straight ahead at their goal. They keep doing things and trying things. And every single step of their project takes them closer to their target.
This is not a dress rehearsal my friend. This is your one real life. The big projects and ideas aren’t going to magically happen for you. They aren’t going to happen when they ‘should’ happen. They are going to happen when you make them happen. It’s never too late to build the big thing that you want to build, but you have to go out there and get it. You have to start building. You can’t just wait for the one day when it’s all perfectly right and all the things will miraculously slide into place. That’s not reality.
If you feel like you should be somewhere different, somewhere further ahead on your path than you are right now, then today is the day you do a full evaluation. First, let go of the things that you can’t control. Those goals or milestones you haven’t hit and have no control over whatsoever. And then, immediately start moving in a real and intentional way toward a goal that you do have control over.
Now I’ve talked before about when you’re stuck and overwhelmed because of your day-to-day tasks have piled so high you don’t have time for anything but just getting through the day. And I actually created a quick, free #PowerDay to help you get unstuck. If that’s where you are right now and you need help getting unstuck you can go listen to my #PowerDay episode, it’s episode #6 and go download the free #PowerDay guide on carabrookins.com/powerday.
But if you’re caught up-ish on your day-to-day stuff and you still feeling stuck, then there’s a problem with where you’re looking. The modern world has played havoc with this way your brain was set up to survive in a primitive world. Use that brain feature more effectively by connecting with the real people doing the real thing so you can get the full picture. The people who are already living the way you want to be living can serve as your mentors. Let them be the fuel that drives you, that sparks the thought: if they can do it, so can I. I’m next.
Leave the stuff you can’t control behind. Look straight ahead. Focus on the goal.
Don’t let another birthday pass by with you feeling even further behind. Because it’s never too late.
Think about what it will feel like when you hit that target. When you’re living the life you imagined. When you’re working the thing you love most. Think about the end game, and that makes every step worth it. The first step, the easy steps later on, and even the difficult steps. It’s worth it.
So whether you’re 8 or 82, it’s not too late. You can still do your big project. In fact, you still have time to do another big project after that. There is still time. So, don’t waste another day. Decide what project you want to start and then do it.
And if you’re having a little trouble getting started and need more focus to really launch into this, sign up for my free unstuck challenge. I’ll send you a video each day for four days with strategies you can immediately start using to reach for your goal. It’s 100% free and guaranteed to get you moving and keep you motivated. Go to CaraBrookins dot com and select Get Unstuck.
Make sure you come back for next week’s show, because I’m going to share a really simple brainstorm strategy that will solve the your big problems that—at least at first glance—appear to be impossible. This is one quick idea that you’ll use forever.
Thanks for hanging out with me today, head over to carabrookins.com for more (free) tools, and we should really connect on social media too. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.