THE BLOG

3 Reasons Women Don't Act on Their Brilliant Ideas--and What to Do About It

06/23/2015 01:56 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016
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My work as a coach and speaker was partly born out of my frustration that so many brilliant, talented women with big visions were watching from the sidelines as other people took the lead. Meanwhile, these women's own innovative, game-changing ideas went undiscovered.

Many of us have no trouble recognizing brilliance in others yet cannot see our own brilliance and act on it. Here are 3 reasons we fall into this trap--and more important, how to climb out of it.

1. "I'm not ready for that step yet."

Preparation and planning is important to the success of any new endeavor. But don't get locked into thinking that you have to do everything in the order that everyone expects them to. That is how you miss fantastic opportunities to get your idea out into the world.

Let me tell you about Sarah. She wanted to swap her life as a corporate executive and set up her own consulting business, but when she was asked to give a presentation to a group of influential people in her industry, she declined. The presentation wasn't the problem. It was that her website wasn't up yet, and she would need more time to get it right. She missed a golden opportunity to catapult her business forward.

There are also many women who believe they can't start their new business or career because they need to complete a particular course first. If only they had that piece of paper, then they'd be ready, they say. Meanwhile, the days tick by.

There is no law that says you have to clear one hurdle before you tackle the next. Seize every chance to move your idea forward, and you just may leapfrog your way to success.

2. "I'm not good enough."

Many women are holding themselves back from unleashing their big ideas until they have acquired all of the skills and knowledge it's possible to acquire and they have dotted every "i" and crossed every "t"--essentially, until everything is perfect. Of course, that time never comes, because perfection is unachievable.

Perfectionism is the enemy of achievement, because it makes us shrink from taking risks. We give up or don't even try in the first place, because we assume we can never be good enough.

I know my fair share about perfectionism, having overcome an eating disorder in the past. I know the terror that perfectionism brings with it. The opportunity for good things to happen can be right in front of us, but we don't even notice, because we are paralyzed by fear that our mistakes or shortcomings will be uncovered. The fear that comes with perfectionism triggers a cascade of hormones and chemicals in our brain that puts the brakes on our short-term memory, concentration, and rational thought.

I want to make a clear distinction between striving to do your best and being a perfectionist. Perfectionism is not about doing your best. It's about worrying what others think of you. Perhaps the greatest fear of all for a perfectionist is vulnerability, because when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you risk appearing weak or being judged negatively.

To turn our brilliant ideas into a reality, we need to give up perfectionism. In its place, we need to build up the courage to be vulnerable so that we can truly show up in the world. We need to risk--and even embrace--failure. 

3. "I'll get around to it one day."

No matter how brilliant an idea you have, it will remain nothing more than an idea floating around in your head until you make this one crucial decision: the decision to make it happen.

Without a strong commitment--and a generous helping of passion--you will always find something else to do that seems more urgent or easier.

Make this the day that you commit to one of your big ideas, and set a deadline for achieving it. A deadline focuses your attention, it motivates you, it keeps your momentum going. Be sure to give yourself enough time, as there is nothing more demoralizing than an unachievable deadline. By the same token, make sure your deadline is not so far away that you're tempted to tell yourself, "I don't need to start yet; I've got 12 months," which then becomes, "I've still got 10 months," and so on. Six months tends to be the sweet spot.

Decide. Commit to a deadline. And take your first step toward making your brilliant idea become reality.