318: The Hiding Habit: Understanding and Conquering the Urge to Avoid Action
There are thousands of ways to hide from the work you know you need to do to move your life to higher ground. In fact, most of us have developed a habit of hiding from the work in at least one dimension of our life, if not several.
The hiding habit can look like a lot of things…
- Convincing yourself you need more information before you get started,
- Waiting for the “perfect” time,
- Telling you don’t know what the next step is,
- Asking anyone and everyone what they think your next step should be
… and SO MANY other things.
The problem is that when you are hiding from the work you know you need to do to move the needle of progress in your life, you stagnate. And stagnation sucks.
In this episode, I reveal some of the most common hiding habits I encounter in my coaching calls and, more importantly, share with you strategies to help you stop hiding and start living.
Welcome to Grace & Grit.
The Grace & Grit podcast is your go-to resource for reclaiming, generating, protecting and expressing your power as a woman in midlife.
This show will completely change the way you think about health & well-being and help you make your second act the best one yet!
- 353: Unlocking the Power of Nervous System Regulation at Midlife w/ Irene Lyon
- 352: Rising Strong: The Power of Reorienting at Midlife
- 351: Dreams Interrupted: Exploring the Sleep Dilemmas of Midlife w/ Laini Gray
- 350: Defying Defaults: Life on Purpose
- 349: Year in Review: Noteworthy Lessons Gifted by 2023
Transcripts are auto-generated.
Courtney Townley 0:00
Welcome to the Grace and Grit Podcast made for women who want their healthiest years to be ahead of them, not behind them. Join your host Courtney Townley right now. As she breaks down the fairy tale health story, you have been chasing all of your life, indispensable action steps and lasting change.
Courtney Townley 0:28
Hello, my friends, and welcome to the Grace & Grit Podcast. This is your host, Courtney Townley. As always I’m so grateful you’re here.
Courtney Townley 0:36
Now, a lot of you who have been listening to the show for a while, probably know that I consider myself a Health Coach/Self-Leadership Coach. And in the work that I do with my clients, in literally every coaching session that I do, which is a lot of sessions every week, there is always a moment in every call, where I am helping the client to reveal to themselves the ways in which they are hiding from the work that they have called themselves to do.
Courtney Townley 1:12
And look, there are 1000s of ways that we hide from the work that we know we need to do to move our life to higher ground. In fact, most of us have developed a habit of hiding from that work and at least one dimension of our life, if not all the dimensions of our life. And hiding can look like a lot of things. It can look like a lot of innocent things. Like convincing yourself that you need more information before you get started. Hiding can look like waiting for the perfect time. It might look like telling yourself that you don’t know what the next step is. Hiding might look like asking anyone and everyone what they think your next step should be.
Courtney Townley 2:14
The problem is, of course, that when we’re hiding from the work, we can’t progress, we can’t move the needle of progress. In fact, what we do is we promote stagnation. And you longtime listeners have heard me say a million times that stagnant places are where things go to die not to thrive.
Courtney Townley 2:41
So in today’s episode, I would love to reveal to you some of the most common hiding habits that I encounter in my coaching practice. And more importantly, share with you some strategies to help you stop hiding, and really start leaning into action. So first, let’s just address a few reasons that we do hide. Why don’t we just do the work that we know we need to do? Lots of reasons. And I would say the most obvious reason is that we have been practicing for many years, not doing the work. And look, I mostly work with women in midlife.
Courtney Townley 3:30
A lot of my clients have been hiding from certain work, literally for decades. And what we practice, of course, becomes automatic. It becomes a habit, because that’s what habits are something that we have practiced so many times that it just becomes our reaction, we literally don’t even have to think about it. We just show up in a particular way. Because we have practiced that way on repeat for so long.
Courtney Townley 4:13
And myself and every woman that I work with, has a habit again in some area of her life with avoiding the work, ignoring the work, distracting herself from the work. We have developed a habit of those things rather than a habit of taking action. And I love reminding people of this because I feel like number one, it normalizes it, there’s nothing wrong with you that you’ve developed these habits. It’s a human thing. And once you see that Your habit is really just a byproduct of the way that you’ve been showing up, you can decide to start showing up in a new way.
Courtney Townley 5:11
I’m not saying that work is easy, but it is a very compassionate way to look at why you do the things that you do. Oh, it’s not me that’s broken. It’s this pattern that I have been practicing for a really long time. That is the obstacle. And I can change that pattern. Another reason we develop hiding habits we hide from the work that we know we need to do is because we have a huge fear of failure.
Courtney Townley 5:47
I realized that all humans, to some degree probably have a fear of failure. I think that it is especially relevant to women. I think a lot of women have been conditioned to sort of have this good girl mentality, we don’t rippled the water, we make other people comfortable all the time, we want to make other people happy all the time, we have this delusion of perfection, that we can actually get there, that there is a perfect place that we can arrive at that there’s a perfect way of being and moving through the world.
Courtney Townley 6:24
And that perfectionism, that good girl mentality, has cultivated a tremendous amount of fear, of being messy, of screwing up of making mistakes. And one of the things I always offer everyone, when we’re talking about fear of failure, is that it’s not really failure itself that you fear. What you actually fear is what you make failure mean. So think about it.
Courtney Townley 7:02
If I decide today to go try something new. Maybe I go take a class of some kind. And I find out that I’m not very good at it. That results, actually does it make me feel terrible? What makes me feel terrible, is how I think about my performance in that class. I’m not good at it. And then I make that mean, that I shouldn’t try new things that I’m never going to be good at fill in the blank. I’m too old to pursue these types of endeavors. That’s why we fear failure is because of what we make failure mean. We also develop hiding habits. Because when we lean into work, we start to feel things that we may have avoided feeling for a really long time. So we obviously have to be willing to get uncomfortable, we might have to be willing to rumble with frustration and disappointment, and inconvenience and a whole host of other emotions. That can be challenging to feel, especially if we had been avoiding those types of emotions most of our life. And this is just a small sampling of some of the reasons we hide.
Courtney Townley 8:35
So let’s talk about some of the most common hiding habits. Again, these are things that come up time and time again in the coaching conversations that I have. And you probably will be able to identify with at least one if not all of these things I can identify with every single one. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
Courtney Townley 9:01
The first hiding habit that I want to talk about is consuming information. Holy cow, do we have a lot of information at our fingertips in modern day culture. I mean, thanks to the internet, the development of things like podcasts, the amount of books that are on the market, our access to education. There is so much opportunity to consume information. And a lot of times we are getting ourselves into a position of information overload around certain topics, to the point where overwhelming our brain and an overwhelmed brain is going to hide not actually lean into work and the truth is, and this is a something I mentioned in every course that I teach. I’m a big believer that to move your life to higher ground, you don’t actually need more information. I’ve never found that to be true.
Courtney Townley 10:20
In the 20 plus years that I’ve been coaching women, what we do need to do more of is apply some of the things we already know, that’s where we really struggle. And there’s a quote, I don’t know who said it, but I love it. Knowledge without action is meaningless. So you can sit behind your computer, you can have a Podcast list, you know, it plugged into your ears, you can read all the books. But none of that is really going to change your life. What’s going to change your life is applying what you know what you’ve learned.
Courtney Townley 11:04
So action that moves you that risks of failure is really what we want to lean into. So this is the difference between massive action and passive action. Passive action is the consumption. This is a place a lot of people live for a very long time, sometimes their entire life, consuming, consuming, consuming more information, but never really applying anything, not with any degree of consistency. Massive Action is it really speaking to the size of the action, it’s simply alluding to leaning into action, that risks failure. So I can read all day long about strength training. And it’s actually a topic I love learning about.
Courtney Townley 12:00
But if I don’t actually apply the principles of what I’m learning, I can’t really fail, you can’t fail at reading, you can’t fail at listening to a Podcast, you can’t fail at researching the best programs online. But when you put rubber to the road, and you start applying those principles, then you’re risking failure. And you’re also providing yourself with the tremendous opportunity to move that needle of progress. So hiding Habit number one is consumption of information, consuming information and not applying. The second hiding habit I want to address is busyness. I work with a lot of women who create the illusion that they don’t have time. And one of the things that I am constantly offering them is that you know, it is possible that you do have time. In fact, I often argue they do have time we all have time. It’s not a fact that we don’t have time.
Courtney Townley 13:10
The bigger truth is we aren’t yet making this work that we’re resisting that we’re avoiding. We’re not yet making that a priority. And so if you considered the work that you know you need to do to move your life to higher ground, and you allowed yourself to start in a very small dose. It might be five minutes, it might be 20 minutes. I’m willing to bet you can find time in your day. But yes, that will probably require a sacrifice somewhere, it’s going to require letting go of something that maybe isn’t as important.
Courtney Townley 14:00
Maybe you listen to 20 minutes less of a Podcast, hopefully not mine. No, I’m kidding. Maybe it is mine, you listen to less. Maybe you spend less time on social media. Maybe you spend less time beating yourself up about all the ways in which you’re failing in your life. Maybe you spend less time consuming more information. So you can carve out that small dose of leaning in to the work that you know needs to be done.
Courtney Townley 14:35
Two things I really want to encourage you to do when you are trying to develop a new practice of something is number one. Try scheduling that thing in your day first. And I don’t mean it has to be first thing in the day. I mean, it’s the first thing that goes on your schedule, before everything else gets scheduled for the day. That is so uncomfortable for women, because usually we have a practice of doing the opposite. We wait for time to open up. Instead of declaring, like, this is the one thing I really want to do for myself today, and plugging that into your calendar first. And then the second thing I want to remind you of is that one of the ways we really create a barrier to our own success is we commit to too much out of the gate, I have done so many Podcast episodes about that.
Courtney Townley 15:34
Really giving yourself permission to start ridiculously small, you’re going to think it’s ridiculously small. So when a client tells me, I’m going to exercise five days this week, and they’re not even exercising at all, I’ll say How about we commit to two? And they’ll say, Well, that’s not enough. Well, sure it is, it’s more than you’re currently doing. And that’s all that’s needed to move the needle of progress. So, schedule the thing first, on your calendar, and also make sure the dosage is so small, that it’s really easy. Yes.
Courtney Townley 16:15
The next hiding habit I would like to highlight here is avoiding data. This is so common. I have myself done this many times, I’m still doing it, actually, to some degree on occasion. But this, this looks like avoiding making a doctor’s appointment. Because you know, something is off kilter. And you really just don’t want to face it. It means it’s something like avoiding your bank account. You want to make more money or be more responsible with your money. And yet you’re refusing to actually look at the data. You want to grow your business, but you’re not actually looking at the numbers, because you’re so caught up in the drama. A lot of people avoid getting on the scale, because they don’t want to face what is actually happening on the scale. I’ll give you a great example of this. This actually happened to me.
Courtney Townley 17:09
This past weekend, I was massively premenstrual, my period was just about to start. And I went to a party where I had a cocktail, and I ate a lot of foods that I don’t normally eat. And I have a habit of weighing myself in the morning because honestly, for me, it’s a great practice of managing my brain. And it really helps me to stay attentive to what’s truly going on in my body. Because I have chosen to not make my weight on the scale make mean anything about me. But it does give me a lot of information about inflammation, and about some of my choices.
Courtney Townley 17:49
So lo and behold, the next morning after this party, I didn’t necessarily want to get on the scale because I felt inflamed. But I kind of coached myself through that moment. And I was like, Courtney, what a great thing to see. Like how much PMS combined with all these choices you made yesterday, affects your system. So I got on the scale, lo and behold, I think my weight was up like six pounds. And I didn’t, I didn’t beat myself up about it. I didn’t feel bad about it all day. I just took the data. And I considered why the data was what it was. And I moved on. And here we are three days later, and my weight is back to normal because my cycle is over. And I am now not inflamed, because of all those choices that I made at that party.
Courtney Townley 18:40
So please do not hear me like making an argument that you should weigh yourself. I don’t, it doesn’t this is this is your choice. A lot of people choose to never get on the scale again for the rest of their life. And that’s fine. Just make sure you like your reasons for not doing it. And I would say this around any behavior because you can track any behavior, right, you could track what you eat, you can track how much money you spend, you can track what time you’re going to bed, what time you’re waking up. And I highly encourage when someone is trying to make a change in their life, to track behavior. So you can really focus on data over drama. You don’t need to tell yourself stories about the data. You don’t need to make the data mean anything about you as a human. But data is very helpful to see what changes need to be made. And if you don’t face it, you can’t fix it. So we can go weeks or months or years or a lifetime without looking at certain data. And we’re not looking at it because we’re hiding from the truth of our life. And I think that can be a really dangerous throwed the next hiding habit that I would like to address is that we don’t plan.
Courtney Townley 20:10
I talk to a lot of clients all the time about their frustrations, right, the thing that they really want to change, maybe that’s eating better, maybe that’s finding a new job, maybe it’s getting a better sleep cycle could be look like so many different things. And when I asked them, what is your strategy for making this change, it is very rarely surprising that they have no strategy, which is why they’re so frustrated. It’s why they feel so stuck. I was talking to a client, actually, several clients this week brought up and maybe it’s the season, we’re kind of moving into spring in the northern hemisphere.
Courtney Townley 20:53
But several people this week brought up the challenge of wanting to declutter their environment, right, that’s their home, their office, their car, whatever it is. And a lot of times, with an activity like that, we again, we have no strategy for doing it feels so overwhelming to look at an entire home, or an entire room that has a lot of stuff in it. And it overwhelmed brain again, is always going to say no. So what about just pre deciding, every day, I’m going to spend 1530 minutes cleaning, and I’m gonna start in this room. And I’m going to start on this task. So the more specific we get in our strategy, the less the brain has to think, the less overwhelming it becomes. And the more we start following through.
Courtney Townley 21:52
So a reminder that decision fatigue is a very real thing, your brain is making so many choices every single day, both consciously and unconsciously. And when we are trying to lean into developing new patterns in our life, that requires extra work from your brain. So how can we minimize that work? Well, we minimize the work by pre deciding. And that’s what planning is. So how can you pre decide around the work that you’re calling yourself to do the work that you’re hiding from? The next hiding habit, indecision, and this goes very, this is very closely related to not having a plan. Because to have a plan, you have to make some decisions. And indecision, not deciding is an awesome way to stay stuck. Because think about it.
Courtney Townley 22:55
If I’m driving in my car, and I’m sitting at a stop sign, and I can either go right, or I can go left, or I can go straight, I have three options. But I don’t make a decision. I’m going to sit there, I’m going to be stuck at the stop sign. There’s no momentum, I’m not going back, I’m not going forwards. I’m not turning right, I’m not turning left, completely stuck. And this is again, how a lot of us live our life, just not deciding. And the other thing that we do is we convince ourselves, I need to do more research. Should I go right? Should I go left? Should I ask my mom? Should I ask my coworker? Should I ask whoever, right? So we, we actually use more hiding habits to fuel this hiding habit. So deciding is a very powerful way to move your life in a direction. And I always say that when you make a decision, you are either going to one of two things is going to happen.
Courtney Townley 24:03
When you make a decision, you’re either going to move in the direction you want to go in, or you’re going to move further away from that direction. And either one is awesome. I know a lot of people say no, Courtney only moving forward is awesome. But that’s not true. Even when we move in the opposite direction of where we want to go. We’re still learning. We’re still gathering intel, we’re still learning about ourselves and our life, which is then going to inform the next decision that we make. So deciding is always a plus. Not deciding, again is how we stay stuck. It’s and again, that’s what hiding is so we feel very stuck when we’re hiding. So decide faster. That would be my challenge to you.
Courtney Townley 24:53
If you are someone who is consistently in a space of indecision, challenge yourself to start making decisions a whole a lot faster, being be willing to mess it up, be willing to get it wrong, be willing to decide. Because the quicker you decide, the quicker you will progress because you’ll be learning or you’ll be moving forward, both of those things are progression. Another way that we hide, is we wait, we convince ourselves, there will be a better time, there will be a perfect time. Now is not the time, we can play this game for a really long time. And I think this is very closely related to all or nothing thinking.
Courtney Townley 25:42
Because a lot of times when we’re thinking there’s a perfect time, we’re also telling ourselves the story that there’s a perfect time where I’m going to be able to execute things perfectly. And all at once. And my friends, none of that is ever true, you will never execute perfectly. And if you try to do everything at once, you will always fail.
Courtney Townley 26:08
So if we can allow ourselves again, to control the dosage of what we’re committing to start really small, it’s always the right time. It is always the right time to do 1% better, because 1% Better, doesn’t massively change your life. It changes your life. And it changes your life massively over time. But 1% On any given day, is nothing. It’s a little smidge of a move, it is not going to affect your life in profound ways, positive or negative. And that’s a beautiful thing. Because it removes the excuse that now is not the time. And the other thing that I would really encourage you to think about if this is your hiding habit of always waiting is to really practice. telling yourself that now is the perfect time. Just decide that now is the perfect time. Decisions are always a choice and they can be made at any time. Now is the perfect time. How would that change your life if that’s what you choose to play on repeat in your brain?
Courtney Townley 27:37
Another hiding habit. We focus on other people’s opinions and other people’s problems. Now a little caveat here. I really do believe that a great part of being a human is that we get to help other humans. So please don’t hear me saying that I don’t think you should be lending a helping hand and extending compassion and love to everyone and anyone around you. What I am saying is that only you know why you do what you do. And again, from coaching a lot of women over a lot of years.
Courtney Townley 28:18
For many women, their hiding habit is shining the light on other people. So they don’t have to shine the light on their own stuff. So if you are helping to really help that is different from reaching out to help someone to avoid your own work. And we also can spend a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to fix other people, which I know you know this on some level but it’s always worth repeating. You cannot fix other people. You can do your own work and lead by doing your own work. You can offer support, you can offer help and guidance. You cannot fix other people. But we can spend so many resources there that then we don’t have resources to dedicate to our own work. I would also offer that we spend a lot of time playing the Compare and despair game.
Courtney Townley 29:32
We spend a lot of time comparing our life to other people, which usually makes us feel terrible. And when we feel terrible. You think we want to hide or we want to act you hide. So compare and despair is not ever serving you to take action So my suggestion here is that you stay in your lane. And really ask yourself when you are focusing on other people and trying to assist and guide and support other people.
Courtney Townley 30:14
Is that what you’re really doing? Or are you avoiding your own work? I would also remind you that really, we’re in the best position to support and guide and help and all the things when we are doing our own work. The last hiding habit that I want to highlight today, and again, this is not an exhaustive list. Like I said, beginning there are 1000s of ways that we hide from the work we’ve called ourselves to do. But the last one I want to address is stories. We tell ourselves a lot of stories that encourage us to hide from our lives. The stories encourage us to hide from the work of our lives. And some of the most common stories that I hear that are used specifically to help us hide are things like, confusion, I’m confused.
Courtney Townley 31:14
Well, anytime you’re confused, I always remind myself and anyone who will listen, confusion is really easily solved by asking a question. And I would offer that you don’t even need to necessarily ask other people questions to get clarity. A lot of times, it’s just asking ourselves some good questions, which is really what coaching is, whether you’re coaching with a coach, or you’re coaching yourself. It’s about asking good questions.
Courtney Townley 31:48
So I’m confused, is a really great way way to hide. If you’re confused all the time. Why would you take action? You don’t know what to do? You’re confused about what to do. So notice, when you’re using that language, I’m confused. Also notice when you use the language, I don’t know. If I had $1, for every time I hear that statement in coaching calls, I’d be I’d be doing awesome. I mean, I am doing awesome. I’d be doing even more awesome. But I don’t know. I don’t know is a great way to hide from taking action. If you don’t know, how could you possibly take action? So I play a game a lot in coaching calls where someone tells me I don’t know. And I’ll say what if you had to know what if your house was going to be taken away? If you didn’t come up with a next possible step? What if your kids were going to move out of the house much sooner than they needed to? If you didn’t make a decision about what the next step was? And it’s fascinating how quickly people come up with what they might do. Right What’s your net?
Courtney Townley 33:15
What’s what’s a good guess? What might be the next step? Nobody knows for sure what the next step is our entire life is based on our best guesses but when we convince ourselves that there is an absolute right answer, we will hide most of our life out of fear of making the wrong decision. So it’s not true that you don’t know Maybe you just haven’t asked yourself good questions. And maybe you just haven’t given yourself permission to make a next best guess. Another story I hear a lot what if I fail? What if I screw this up? What if it’s not the right choice? And my response is always so what right? What if you succeed that is also possible. But we tend to hyper focus on the what if I fail? What if you succeed? And the other thing many of you have heard me say before that I also often offer is rather than what if in yourself What if I fail? What if I screw up? What if this is wrong? Even if yourself? Even if I fail? Even if I screw this up horribly? Even if this turns out to be a horrible choice. Fill in the blank. I love even iffing my clients. When they What if me right there, what iffing themselves, but they’re kind of verbalizing it to me, I just spit it right back on them.
Courtney Townley 35:07
So when they say to me, What if I lose my job? What if this person stops talking to me. And I will just ask them let’s even if this even if that person stops talking to you, even if you lose your job. And here’s the power of it. When people finish the even if statement, they start revealing to themselves that they have an answer for what they would do, they’re going to be okay, they’re going to have their own back. That’s power. What if thing robs you of power, even if thing restores your power? Another story I hear a lot of people sort of verbalize is it doesn’t matter. Right?
Courtney Townley 35:58
It doesn’t matter if I, if I make an attempt to eating better, it doesn’t matter if I exercise, it doesn’t matter if I go to bed on time. And I think this is more of it’s kind of a silence message in our brain that we’re recycling over and over again. And man that can keep you hiding for a really long time. If you’re convincing yourself that something doesn’t matter. And yet, deep in your soul, you know, it does matter.
Courtney Townley 36:29
There’s a lot of incongruence there, and incongruency is never going to lead to strong action. So arguing for why does matter? Why is this important to me? argue for why you can goes hand in hand with that, right? We spend a lot of time arguing for all the reasons we can’t. But you could just as easily start arguing for why you can do this, maybe you have to make it smaller, maybe you have to lower the bar of expectation. Maybe you need to extend your timeline. But there you can argue for why this is possible for you.
Courtney Townley 37:14
So all of that being said, right, going through what did we go through like eight or nine different hiding habits? What are your hiding habits? That’s what I’d really encourage you to consider at the end of this Podcast today. What are the ways in which you are hiding from the work that you know you need to do to move your life to higher ground? And once you reveal the habits to yourself, What are you going to do about it? Answering that second question is what leads us to action. What are you going to do when you reveal your hiding habits.
Courtney Townley 38:02
Obviously, this is the work that I do in the world. So if you need help with it, I have lots of resources on my website. Lots of opportunities to dig deeper into skill sets that help you do this all of which can be found at graceandgrit.com. If you liked this Podcast if you enjoyed this episode, if you keep coming back week after week, I would so deeply appreciate it if you would rate and review the show on your Podcast player. I do realize not all Podcast players allow you to leave a review. But most Podcast players do allow you to at least rate the show. Honestly, rating ratings and reviews I always joke that for years I never left ratings and reviews because I didn’t think it really mattered. But now that online business has become such a vibrant space and there are so many choices. I know as a consumer that I am always reading about people’s experience and you know kind of what people thought about a product or a service before I lean into spending time on it. So ratings and reviews matter it is how we get more ears on the show. And that’s my whole purpose is to get this show into as many years as possible.
Courtney Townley 39:13
That’s it my friends. I hope this was helpful. I hope you really do consider your own hiding habits and most importantly, you make some strong decisions about what you are going to do once you reveal them.
Courtney Townley 39:26
Alright, have a great day and I will see you again next week. Take care.
Courtney Townley 39:35
Thank you for listening to the grace and grit Podcast. It is time to mend the fabric of the female health story. And it starts with you taking radical responsibility for your own self care. You are worth the effort and with a little grace and grit anything is possible.
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