Are you showing up?

- December 18, 2018 3 MIN READ

Is there an element of your work that’s not flowing? Time to figure out if you’re actually showing up.

Something shocking happened yesterday. As I researched a project (some might call this faffing around on social media), I discovered something profound.

There, in the middle of a relatively uninspired entrepreneurial coaching article, I had an Oprah-esque ‘aha moment’.

The crux of it — is there somewhere in your life you’re not showing up?

Damn. There it was. The very reason I was faffing around on social media in the first place — I haven’t been truly showing up for my own project.

I’d made plans, got busy, got side-tracked, tinkered at the edges and bemoaned my lack of momentum — I was doing everything except show up. Cue frustration and disappointment.

So what does it really mean to show up? And what can stop you?

What does ‘showing up’ mean?

What does it mean to show up? We aren’t talking about turning up to your grandma’s birthday party (though that probably has its merits).

In this context, showing up means to be engaged and ‘all in’ — to be present and committed. It also means actions being congruent with thoughts and intentions.


It’s a simple and self-explanatory concept. But it’s easy enough to drop the ball (and miss the birthday party). Especially when uncertainty and difficulty creep in.

Effective ways to avoid showing up

There are lots of ways to not show up for something — it comes down to your personal (self-sabotage) style and preference. Here is a list of five tried and proven techniques for failing to show up to your own project.

1. Withdraw

Withdrawal is a simple and effective way to not show up. Remove yourself from your project, and it doesn’t exist! It’s impossible to show up if you’re absent. As a starting point, you could try physical, emotional, financial or time withdrawal. So many options!

2. Stick to the edges

Sticking to the edges (a favourite of mine) is subtler than the withdrawal technique. It’s a great one for diligent overachievers as superficially it looks and feels like you’re on track. You can organise, plan and strategise, tinker and adjust all without fully engaging in your own project.

3. Spread yourself too thin

Spreading yourself too thin is a classic soloist approach. So much to do. Lots of hooks in the ocean and irons in the fire. Lots of stuff to get done. Then add other layers like family, friends, after-school activities and self-care. Over time you become spread so thin showing up is no longer a remote possibility.

4. Kick other people’s goals

A variation on spreading yourself too thin. This is where you let other people’s goals and priorities completely overtake your own (typically without making a conscious decision to do so). This could be other people’s business goals, social activities or even community or sporting association commitments (P&C Association anyone?)

5. Active distraction

This primarily involves doing anything other than your intended project. Tried and proven favourites include faffing around on any form of social media, making phone calls and reading news media sites.

The more refined procrastinator may like to spend time participating in closed (project relevant) Facebook groups or reading blog posts with educational value.

If faffing about in cyberspace isn’t your thing, you could garden or go grocery shopping. You don’t need to limit active distraction to the office or home. There are limitless options available.

What to do if you’re not showing up?

If you find yourself engaging in ‘Effective Ways to Avoid Showing Up’ it’s probably a good time to pause and ask yourself why.

Most of us have our own techniques for working effectively; so when you move away from this, there’s usually something under the covers you need to address.

When you find yourself not showing up for something, you could start by asking yourself:

  • What is it about the project that has you withdrawing?
  • Are there difficult truths you need to shine some light on?
  • Is it the wrong project in the first place?
  • What’s holding you back?
  • How did you get here?

Once you confront the ‘why’, you can consciously opt-in (or out) of the thing you’re not showing up to and take steps to correct your course.

 Over to you, folks

The are lots of ways to avoid showing up in some aspect of your work; from ‘Withdrawal’ to the more subtle ‘Sticking to the Edges’, sabotaging your own work or project is surprisingly easy.

The power comes when you realise what you’re doing and reflect on why you stopped showing up in the first place.