Overcoming Deer in Headlights Syndrome

Deer in headlights. That was what came to mind when I recently asked participants in my CORE 4 Achievers group to schedule a full day to gain clarity on what they wanted to do and who they wanted to become in the new year.

Yes, deer in headlights is exactly how they stared at me as they voiced their concerns:

  • “My calendar is packed. How am I supposed to take a whole day to myself?”
  • “By myself?  Alone with my thoughts? That’s scary?”
  • “What would I even do? What would that look like? I’ve never done that before.”
  • “I feel overwhelmed right now to even think about a day to myself.”

While my heart went out to them, I definitely wanted them to travel down a road of taking a day just for themselves. I wanted them to know they had permission to focus on self-care and create the right environment to move toward their goals intentionally.

They, however, didn’t realize they deserved it. They didn’t know how much this time was essential to achieve their goals.  They were suffering from Deer in Headlights Syndrome — frozen in place, unable to move forward and take an alternative route.

Then I remembered that I used to think and feel the same way. It was not so long ago that I believed the only way to get where I wanted to be in life was to work hard and long while sacrificing things that brought me joy. There was just too much to do that prevented me from taking time for myself.  

Oh, I told myself that someday I would definitely get back to those activities I loved. But I continuously felt burned out, unsatisfied with my level of success and unfulfilled with my life. Year after year, goals were missed, and I beat myself up mentally and physically by not practicing self-care.

Then I did some deep inner work with my coach and realized my mindset about work and sacrifice actually held me back from the life I desired. I tried something new. I took myself on a solo professional retreat to connect with myself, my dreams and my desires for my life.  I focused not only on what I wanted to accomplish, but how I wanted to get there.  

My aha moment was realizing that I was not going to get there by doing the same things I had done year after year. Instead, intentional self-care, enjoying life now not later and working toward my goals while having a healthy and harmonious life needed to be non-negotiable.  

What happened after that mindset shift? I started a new business that continues to fill rather than deplete me. I have a life that is fulfilling, joyful and lived with purpose. I’m not burned out. In fact, I feel energized every day. Work doesn’t feel like work; it feels like fun. Goals are realized and often feel like they flow right to me rather than scratching my way to them.

In my CORE 4 Achievers Program, I teach from this experience and give participants the tools to create what they desire without sacrificing any part of a balanced joyful life. It is highly effective. In fact, I am starting up another group in the Spring if you would like to join me. 

But for my current group, I knew I had to help them overcome Deer in Headlights Syndrome so they could move on. This is what I proposed to them, and what I also suggest for you. It’s only three steps so I know you will be able to do it.

  1. Block 2-3 hours of undisturbed time on your calendar within the next 2-3 weeks.
  2. Complete section #2 of your DIY Professional Retreat Planner.
  3. Reward yourself by doing something that you love to do, but don’t often allow yourself to do.

Take those baby steps if a full day is a stretch. But remember that nothing can replace the full retreat experience. At some point, please give yourself permission to book yourself a solo professional retreat that is focused on you and your goals.  Experience self-care and connection to your own inner coach.  

This investment you make in yourself will set you up for intentional success in all areas of your life. You can stop looking at the headlights and run happy and free.