When hearing advice, do you ever reflexively think “I know that”, then immediately dismiss it? I do, it’s one of the many dumb things I tend to do. The past couple of weeks have been a perfect example of “physician heal thyself” for me, and it’s time to put the kibosh on it!
I’ve been on sabbatical since the first of September, and I’ve done bupkis. Not that I haven’t been psychologically tortured mind you, but that didn’t seem to get my ass in gear. I fell into the most common (for me) mind trap, which is procrastination. There’s a weird comfort in procrastination, I think it’s because thinking about what you’re “supposed” to be doing gives you a lot of the same juice as actually doing it, with none of the attendant work.
Whatever the reason, I got myself in deep with the procrastination demon, all the while “knowing” exactly what I needed to do. Which is to take action. Do the thing you’re not doing. It sounds simple because it is simple – if you want to do a thing, then do it. The underlying psychology for why you’re procrastinating may in fact be deep and very dark, and if you can’t surmount it and it’s keeping you from a cherished goal it’s worth getting outside help. But the first thing you need to do is your best, if you haven’t done your best, don’t look for help – doing your level best can produce amazing results. (Wait a second, I’m just giving myself a pep talk here, let me get back to my original point.)
In my intro I mentioned “knowing” what to do, then not doing it. For me, this is what I know and did not do:
- Know what you want – one of the most obvious reasons for procrastinating is that you don’t want to do it. Figure this out first, do you really want what you’re avoiding? Or do you just “think” you want it? Knowing what you truly want is the MOST important thing.
- Decide whether you can do what you want? – Chunk down on what you’ve identified as “what I want”, how much of it do you control? What things that you control should you do first? You can freak yourself out by trying to do everything at once, so a “one step at a time” approach could be best. In my case, I want to sell my novels. To do that I have to have novels to sell. So, my first step is finishing my second novel.
- Plan – Don’t fetishize planning (you can get into analysis paralysis), but do get good at planning. Knowing what you’re going to do will help when the going gets tough, and for me at least, it always gets tough at some point.
- Set goals – Saying “I’m going to write 365 pages” is different than saying “I’m going to write a page a day for a year”. They mean the same thing, but having a goal of a page a day is clear, easy to prove and easier to identify when you get off track.
- Take action – my favorite old coot Napoleon Hill says “Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” This is where the rubber meets the road – having goals lets you know if the action you’re taking is bearing fruit toward your plan of achieving what you want.
I “know” those five steps are virtually foolproof, yet when I set out on my sabbatical I figured I would wing it because of what an experienced stud I am. My results were less than studly. I’ve corrected this, and have become much more productive (and happier) these past few days.
The recent passing of Wayne Dyer reminded me of the weirdly negative reputation the term “self-help” has in our country. That there’s plenty of gibberish and false hope offered by many guru’s goes without saying, the same can be said for pretty much everything else in the world. But for some reason, the negative juju really sticks to the self-help idea, I think because of a sense that it may prey on the vulnerable (like, say, banks).
I just wanted to note this because so many who just need a little push (as opposed to completely rebuilt psyches – which is real, and requires outside help) might feel funny picking up a book like “The Power of Intention”. I did, for some reason I got it in my head that Dyer was just a big woo-woo guy, and dismissed his work out of hand. But one day, I was waiting for a friend to get a treatment and in the waiting room I found the book and was surprised by how solid it was. It’s a great read, and has some powerful messages that most humans could benefit from hearing.
More than anything, self-help books, seminars, YouTube clips, and podcasts offer quick and easy access to positive voices – voices you can force feed into your skull. It’s a small thing, but we live in a world dominated by doom voices, from news programming to advertising, there’s no shortage of sources to make you feel anything from bad to terrified (it can get in your head). There’s worse things than a few doses of a Napoleon Hill, or Tony Robbins or Wayne Dyer (these all link to videos).
Maps to the Stars
I just caught up with David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars“, and it reminded me to never turn my back on a creator I respect. “Stars” isn’t perfect, but it’s amazingly interesting. It opened my eyes to the performer Mia Wasikowska who is riveting in this. It explores themes dark and deep, it challenges the viewer to keep up, and gives no easy answers. My first exposure to Cronenberg was “Videodrome“, a film that still blows my mind and has become more relevant as time passes possessing the kind of insight that only comes from true art. He’s a filmmaker who has his share of misses, but that’s because he shoots high. “A History of Violence“, “Eastern Promises“, “The Fly“, “The Dead Zone“, “A Dangerous Method” – all deeply interesting and worth your time to seek out.
Beyond man-crushing on Cronenberg, I want to encourage you to seek out art that pushes at your boundaries, makes you question long held beliefs or simply connects to something deep inside you.
Life can be lifeless if you let it, don’t let it.