How to get off the sofa: obstacles in the idea, action, outcome stages

Psychologist Anna Solovyova has written a text about the experience of “getting off the couch” – the transition from a state of apathy to action from a psychological perspective and what typical obstacles stand in the way of results.

To write this article I was prompted both by frequent complaints of clients about the inability to do what I want and my own experience of “getting off the couch” – the transition from a state of laziness and apathy to actions aimed at the realization of their interests and desires.

Sigmund Freud once said: “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanity,” more than a century later, but it is still these two things that make life meaningful: the capacity for love, deep connections with people, and the capacity for work – the interest in life, the ability to choose an activity to suit your needs, to be responsible for your decisions and actions, to find ways to achieve results, to act, to gain experience.

So, what is the path you need to travel to get from an idea in your head to a result?

I suggest that we divide this path into three basic stages.


An idea occurs to us, ‘why don’t I just do a feint? After that, the idea either becomes viable, or is forgotten, and this depends primarily on whether the “feint” meets a need.

The “feint” can be joyful, interesting and enjoyable in itself, or it can give us social weight and a sense of security, or it can be a valuable commodity that helps meet another need by being sold – in either case, one of our needs will be met and “doing the feint” becomes a desire – an inspiring, challenging and empowering one.

If, on the other hand, there is only irritation and longing inside for the idea – “there’s that feint again… my poor ears…” – then there will be no energy or interest to act, and the idea will gradually be forgotten and disappear.

Even more ideas can be trapped by an army of frightening, stopping, critical and devaluing thoughts, which are born out of feelings of inferiority, insecurity, experiences of painful failures, of other people’s rules that we may have ‘imbibed’ in our lives. … “It’s not for me”, “it’s too complicated”, “I definitely can’t do it”, “I’ll never get it right”, “normal people do everything well and easily, but I find it hard, so I can’t do it”, “if I start it, I’ll have to see it through”, “if I do it, it’s perfect”…

I think you can find a hundred different thoughts that stop us trying to do something already at the thinking stage.

The saddest thing is that these thoughts – stopping, frightening, forbidding – have nothing to do with what we have in mind, with the idea we have. They are the debris of other people’s criticism, fears, past experiences of powerlessness and failure, but they begin to choke the new desire, which is much more aided by support, approval and calm.

2. Action

If we have managed to keep our idea, not to be disappointed in it, not to be afraid of possible difficulties and failures, we move on to the stage of actions proper. Actions aimed at the realization of our desire.

By “action” I mean information gathering, planning and action itself – everything that results from our interaction with the world, everything that changes us, that creates or destroys the original state of things, that helps us do and get what we need.

And in this part of our journey to make an idea happen, there are pitfalls of our own.

First, to do something requires strength, energy, attention. And in order to have energy, to be able to exert yourself and do something, you need the ability to relax, rest and recuperate. It is like breathing in and out.

But in our post-Soviet culture, the ability to feel your own strength, to understand how much energy there is, what it goes for, and the ability to relax and give yourself the right to do nothing – to do nothing – is scarce.

Sometimes people don’t notice how much energy they are wasting – the energy is spent on visible actions and on emotions, thoughts, feelings, which are not visible but require not less energy.

Or rest. There is a widespread fear that if you allow yourself to be idle for a while, not running to the result – life will go downhill and fly into little pieces, and moments of relaxation are overshadowed by anxiety – in the end a person may be lying down and doing nothing and trying to rest, but during this time you are so wound up and scared that no strength left again.

And you can’t do much out of helplessness, out of fatigue. Except for sporadic jerks under the slogan “Get it together, you wimp!”

Secondly, to do something you need the ability to interact with the world, with people.
We are in constant interchange with the outside world – physiologically, informationally and subjectively. And the easier it is for us to distinguish between ourselves and the other, the easier it is to be in contact, the more chances we have of getting what we need and giving what we don’t.

And this is a separate big topic about our place in the world, interpersonal interaction, our ability to feel our boundaries, respect other people, ability to negotiate, to ask, to conflict.

3. The result and the experience

If we have managed to save our idea and implement the necessary actions for its realisation – we come to the stage of obtaining the result.

It would seem – what can be difficult? After all, everything is already done, everything is ready! But even here there is a danger: not every result is recognisable. There are strict rules about what is acceptable.

For example, only perfect – if you managed to do everything right the first time, without mistakes and delays – great, it counts, and if not from the first time, not perfect, not smooth – nonsense.

You know how sometimes only an “A” is a mark, and everything else is a complete failure? And with the results it happens the same way – you need only a perfect, only “excellent”.

But how is it possible to do something well without making mistakes and trying over and over again? It seems to me to be a totally unrealistic and unattainable idea, which nevertheless often rules the minds, making us devalue and throw away a huge amount of experience and opportunities.

Another fairly common fear is the fear of change.

Desire will be fulfilled and life will change, and change is often associated with anxiety. In many people’s lives, change equals an inability to control and understand what is happening around you – the experience is painful and traumatic, and any hint that something will go new can provoke attempts to escape from this ‘new’ somehow, including not doing anything that will change life, even in a good way.

Therefore, it seems as if I “want to” and “very much want to” – but there are no results, so that I am neither ashamed of the failure, nor worried – because of the new order of things.

I have touched on the most obvious, common points on the path we walk when making our desires come true. Sometimes the hiccups along the way are clearly visible to us and manage to overcome them easily, sometimes they exist in the form of difficult experiences, gloomy thoughts that are not subject to criticism because they look perfectly natural.

Whatever the case, the path is worth the effort, it leads to empowerment, experience and fulfilment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *