The #1 Purpose Mistake; and the Seductive Myth of Readiness

The #1 Purpose Mistake; and the Seductive Myth of Readiness

Not yet was his unspoken mantra — or so it seemed. He never would have admitted that, of course.

But to his friend, it felt like that was Lachlan’s slogan. It became a kind of running joke. He was always doing something to get ready.

Collecting books could have been a full time job for him. 20 or 30 books on any topic he was interested in lined the shelves in his living room.

He could tell you all the things you needed to do to start a business, though he had never actually done any of them.

Talking about his goals and the things he would do, “someday” seemed to be his favorite hobby. He could tell you all the steps to follow to be happy and fulfilled (afterall, he’d read many books and attended tons of workshops on the subject), but he never seemed quite fulfilled himself.

Lachlan prepared in this way for over nearly twenty years of his adult life. He was always getting ready to follow his purpose and pursue his dreams. But each time it came down to just do it, he had a mile long list of reasons why it wasn’t time yet.

Then, one day, in his attempt to further clarify his purpose (endless clarifying is a seductive trap), he hired a coach.

At the end of their first session the coach asked him a very simple, yet disturbing question:

When will you have prepared enough to actually start living?


He felt like a truck had just slammed into his chest. His lips tried to move, but his mind was blank. He’d run out of excuses.

It was finally time to just fucking do it.

Does this story sound familiar?

Every single one of us at one point or another has lived a version of this story. Maybe for you it’s been a few months, maybe it’s been your whole life.

The Myth is the same no matter the case:

More preparation needs to happen before I can follow my purpose.

This, my friend, is a lie.

So, why do we mistakenly believe that more preparation is always the answer?

What underlies this search that sends men and women to their graves with unrequited passions?

I’m going to lay out the top four reasons we get caught in what I call the Preparation Trap, and the antidote for each one.

Trap #1: I need more clarity

This is the most seductive and insidious of all the Preparation Traps. It’s the one I got entangled in most when transitioning to my new movement coaching purpose.

The difficult part about this trap is that sometimes you really do need more clarity. You need to figure out where the hell you’re going if you want to start taking the steps to get there.

Constantly second guessing whether you’re going in the right direction and stopping to rethink where you’re going is the trap. (Constantly rerouting to find the perfect route before you start taking action is another trap to look out for too. The perfect route is the one you actually take.)

Ultimately, you gain clarity about where you need to go most through action. Thinking about it will only get you so far.

How to escape this trap: Set a deadline for when you’ll decide the direction you’re going. Commit to that purpose for a set amount of time, and get support publicly if possible so you have consequences for backing out or changing directions.

Trap #2: I need to be a master, then I can teach

This fatal trap has the potential to cause you to wait to teach until you’re dead (I guess in that case you wouldn’t teach at all).

You may never become a master. Anyway, mastery is highly subjective. How will you know if you’ve arrived or have become good enough?

Some would argue that mastery doesn’t even exist. I’m inclined to agree.

It’s something to aim for, but you cannot let achieving ultimate greatness in your field for you to start sharing your work.

If one thing is true, “masters” become masters through teaching and sharing. Translating your work to help others and shipping your gifts forces you to take your understanding to the next level.

How to escape this trap: Spend an hour journaling on all the things you’ve accomplished, studied and have immersed yourself in to become an authority. Who cares if you have a piece of paper? Can you help others? Have you made an impact? What will be enough for you to be ready to share and teach?

Trap #3: Preparing is the responsible thing to do

Our culture heralds those that are well-prepared and have sacrificed to get to where they want to go. But what’s underneath this is a self-perpetuating mechanism that creates more preparation.

Not yet seems to be our country’s creed. Just one more degree, just one more promotion, just one more… WAKE UP. Your life is passing you by.

Stop waiting for something to be happy. Don’t get caught up in thinking that you need to prepare more in order to help someone or give your gifts.

Now is the perfect time to put your offering out into the world.

How to escape this trap: Get angry. Write out all the ways that climbing the ladder and trying to fulfill prerequisites to be ready has caused you to suffer. If you didn’t have to live by society’s rules, how would you create your work on your own terms?

Trap #4: I need more knowledge/information/data

Again, how much information will be enough? Do you need to read 20 books? 50? 1,000?

Amassing data and loads or information will only take you so far. You might be a walking encyclopedia of information exercise programming, but what use it if you haven’t embodied any of it?

Education is incredibly valuable, but it’s only useful when it makes a tangible difference in your life.

How to escape this trap: Decide how much education you need now. What will be enough for you to start giving your gifts? Every time you read a book in your field or learn something new, aim to immediately apply it somehow in the real world.

Training is obviously necessary to increase your capacity. Practice and continuing education is immensely valuable.

Want to ask better questions to be a more effective coach? Study and learn from other coaches and you will increase your capacity.

But this capacity is useless if you never ask the questions.

Get to good enough, then apply. Don’t wait until you’re a master (you might never be).

Download the Workbook that Goes Along With This Post.

Download Now

Comment & Add Your Voice

Scott December 9, 2014 at 6:06 am

Yeah Jonathan, I can really relate to these traps, especially number 1 about lacking clarity. In fact I still struggle with this. For me, it’s a result of being interested in too many different subjects, making it difficult to commit to one thing for the long haul.

While I still struggle with this, time is slowly creating the clarity I need in my life and I’m really excited about the upcoming project I’m about to launch. It’s congruent with who I am and it’s mission has clarity and focus.

I’ve been a long time follower of illuminated mind and paidtoexist because your message has always resonated with me. Surprising or not, I started my own movement journey 6-8 months ago independently because as a full-time traveler/nomad who loves being fit, I needed a physical activity that I enjoyed that didn’t require a gym. This led me down the path of gymnastics and bodyweight mastery.

So yeah, looking forward to following you on this new journey too. :)


Jonathan December 9, 2014 at 10:42 am

That’s awesome Scott. What kind of movements are you exploring right now?

Scott December 9, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Right now, my focus is improving my handstand. I can maintain good form against a wall for at least 1:30 and do sets of 8 HSPU, but can only maintain free-standing for 5 secs or so. Just trying to up my core strength, balance, and control. Also working on L-sits, dragon flags, and hanging strength.What about you?

Jonathan December 9, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Nice man. Freestanding is definitely a whole different game. I’ve found that handstands are something you’ve just got to work on every day.

Right now I’m working on my straddle press HS. That’s my number one goal. Negatives are getting more control, and I can press up against the wall, but not yet freestanding.

Arlys Alford December 9, 2014 at 7:23 am

Yes, yes! So true. We all need the balance of knowing we are more than enough married with the wisdom of cultivated intellectual knowledge to feel prepared to teach. Fabulous topic, thank you for blogging on it. That definately was my final block to being paid for what I love. One way I helped myself remove the barrior was to change my own definition of the job requirements.
I added ‘needs to breathe openly and use personal mistakes as part of contined expansion’, lol.
[I don’t have to be right.
I just have to be me.]
Bam! Started teaching in numerous fields.


Jonathan December 9, 2014 at 10:43 am

I love it Arlys. Thanks for being a model of imperfection. :)

Lovelyn December 9, 2014 at 10:03 am

I get hung up on the first myth the most. I’m constantly second guessing myself. I used to need to be absolutely certain before I started anything. The problem was that I was never absolutely certain. Recently I’ve decided to just start and figure it out as I go along. The funny thing is that things have been figuring themselves out. I just needed to get started.

Great post.


Jonathan December 9, 2014 at 10:44 am

Now is always a great place to start. ;)

Scott Sheppard December 9, 2014 at 10:45 am

Oi… that hits right in the bread basket.

I have a question though. I used to not have a problem with any of these. But I see a pattern that hurts pretty bad, where I run into a wall about two to three months into any new project absolutely miserable emotionally. It hurts so bad that I’ve developed this sense of needing clarity etc just so I don’t hit the wall of depression again. I’m absolutely sure it’s a sabotaging thing I’m doing, as it usually hits just before I could be “successful”, but I don’t really know what to do to get past it.

Anyone have any thoughts?


Jonathan December 9, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Hmm, it sounds like you’re realizing that you’re in the midst of a project that you either weren’t passionate about in the first place, or that can’t sustain you over the long term. My advice is to dig deeper and get closer to the core of what you care about.

Ann-Sofi December 10, 2014 at 6:10 am

Hi Scott, fear of success is a super common problem (more common than fear of failure according to many) . What I find helpful is to get honest about these fears and write them down: both what I fear will happen if I fail AND if I succeed. Typically fears (of success) can include to loose control of my time, fear that I will not be able to live up to peoples expectations, that I will loose my present friends etc. etc. And to write down the benefits from succeeding AND not succeeding (typically – to be able to stay in my comfort zone…) Once you know what your fears look like, you can start negotiating with them. How can I keep control of my time? If I loose friends if I get successful, are they really my friends? Are the benefits with staying in my comfort zone worth the prize of not finding out my true potential?
Another thing is that fear comes from a part of our brain that is responsible for our survival. It wants to keep you alive, and (according to fear) the best way to keep you alive is to look at what you’ve survived so far, and keep repeating that pattern. So if you survived the last time you dropped a project, this primitive part of your brain knows that this is a “successful” survival strategy… You will not be able to move forward until you have found a way to comfort this part of the brain, to prove that you are aware of the risks but that you have good solutions to handle them :)

Jennifer December 9, 2014 at 7:23 pm

So what did Lachlan end up doing after the epiphany his coach triggered?


Jonathan December 10, 2014 at 10:25 am

That’s for you to decide. Maybe you’re “Lachlan”?

Jennifer December 10, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Is it an allegory? A composite? Or is there really a Lachlan who finally got traction and did something at last? Inquiring minds want to know! (And yes, I’m totally Lachlan, dammit! That’s why I want to know–I can use his journey to continue to analyze my own!)

Ann-Sofi December 10, 2014 at 6:25 am

Thanks for a great article, Jonathan! I defenitely get stuck there from time to time, especially 4 is my thing…(information junkie ;) ) My strategy for getting things done is to work as quick as possible and publish before I have time to have second thoughts… Since I know if I don’t act when inspired, I don’ act at all. But I’ve found that the more I get used to exposing myself, the less scary it gets (I’ve proven to myself I can survive even if it’s not perfect, so, obviously my brain starts to (slowly)get this)


Jonathan December 10, 2014 at 10:26 am

I think that’s super important Ann. You’ve got to take action fast when the feeling strikes!

Christine December 10, 2014 at 8:48 am

I love this article so much…and hate it at the same time, because it’s definitely me. I’m caught in all of these preparation traps, and also the perfectionist-paralysis trap – if I can’t do I the “right” way, I simply won’t do it. I have two degrees in fashion and design, which I’m passionate about, but I’m not even working in my field right now. My resume never feels “done” enough to put out there. I’m a fashion designer, and yet I never feel like I know enough to actually start taking on clients. I’m afraid of looking like I don’t know what I’m doing (etc.), so I never start. I can relate to Scott, in that I also self-sabotage. The ideas portion of a new project has never been a problem for me; I have a problem with completion. Sometimes so much to the point it’s painful. Knowing that about myself has been helpful though because I can identify and redirect it, “You always get stuck here. It feels frustrating and gross, but you got past it last time and you will this time. ” I can’t wait to try some of these tips to escape the preparation trap. Thanks, Jonathan.


Jonathan December 10, 2014 at 10:27 am

You’re welcome Christine. Hope it helps.

Reece December 17, 2014 at 3:29 am

What a brilliant article- and you hear it all the time!
I think that a lot of us are guilty of it- knowing what we should be doing, but not doing it. Problem is, it’s so much easier to just read about it or talk about it…..whereas it actually takes some balls to get up and take action!
Thanks for writing a decent, thought provoking post.


Rick Siderfin December 18, 2014 at 3:41 am

Great post, Jonathan – got tangled in all four. With your help on the 365 program, smashing through those barriers one by one. And boy, does it ever feel good.

It’s almost like there is this invisible barrier that 97% stay the other side of, terrified to take action.

But once you step over the barrier, you can’t believe you spent so long on the other side. You look back at your former, timid self, and wonder how much longer you might have been trapped, thinking that one day your ship would come in and you would somehow effortlessly transition into the better version of yourself you always dreamed of.

It’s ain’t ever gonna happen by itself. Like Dr Suess says – “somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places, where the boom bands are playing”


Jonathan December 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Proud of you Rick. Let me know how it goes with the 365. Keep me updated!

Tom December 20, 2014 at 1:45 am

Regarding Mastery: I once told someone that I thought my passion and strengths might lead to a career dealing with some form of “career coaching”. And she retorted the fact that I am struggling to find my ideal career. “Who was I” to try help anyone when I was unable to help myself? (And this was from someone in my “mastermind group” support system)

Well how is that for a catch-22?

Anyway, it stopped me dead in my tracks. And now, despite my full realization of the ridiculousness of the comment, it still champions a lingering voice of doubt in my head. “Who am I?”

It cascades into a cacophony of voices:
• What if you don’t like this? You’ll fail at it like all of your other ventures. And all the hard work will again be for nought.
• If it were truly your passion then nothing would stop you.
• You won’t make enough money to support yourself. You’ll go deeper in debt and your wife will resent you.
• Maybe you’ll never figure it out. Maybe just live out your life the best you can and find joy in other areas.
• What if you don’t like it?

And I believe them all to some extent. But there is one strong voice that says, “You have to try it. Otherwise, you’ll never know”. And that voice a tiny bit louder than the others.


Leave a Comment

Sites That Link to This Post

Previous post:

Next post: