Some of you have it all together, and I applaud you, but this post is for the rest of us. Believe it or not, I have plenty to work on before I ascend! I used to think my problem was that I was a procrastinator, distracted, or lazy, but I’ve realized instead that I just hit avoidance mode when I feel out of my depth.
I see this in others as well, and it is painful to watch them as if frozen, unable to proceed in some category of their life, when for the objective observer it doesn’t look so daunting, if they’d only chunk it down and tackle it in smaller bits. Accompanying this malaise is usually a bunch of negative self talk and self-defeating habits that exacerbate the situation.
So think about superheroes for a moment. I know you don’t feel like one, but they are uniformly weird, neurotic creatures that do tremendous things despite not thinking they can. So when you look at it from that point of view, maybe we with our own foibles, and areas of insecurity, are perfect superhero material. Let’s change our internal conversation to focusing on how to burst out and be the superhero that is lurking in there.
I suggest writing a short list of only a few things that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. Look at each item on your list, and ask yourself, “If this was the only thing I got done today, would I be satisfied with my day?” Or maybe ask yourself this, “Will moving forward on this one thing make all my other to do’s either unimportant or easier to complete later?” Also consider, “Am I stymied about this just because I need more information?”
Then pick one of those things you said yes to and get to work. You will discover that this is how to get more done in less time. Get moving on what needs to be done that makes you trepidatious! Realize that avoidance takes way more mental and emotional energy than just doing something about what you are unsure about.
Don’t be a perfectionist, either. Adopt a “done is better than perfect” mentality. I also like the model of “taking massive imperfect action.” Take any tiny, maybe inept, but productive, action regarding the object of your dread or unease– instead of wallowing there stuck in apprehension and evasion. It will not only make you happier and more free, but it plays into your health as well.
I’ve long accepted the very good advice, “Do the worst, first.” First in the day, do first the thing that must get done but that you least want to do. Then, wow, your whole day lightens up from there! It works brilliantly, but the questions above are my next level of attack, if I find myself avoiding even this step that I know is so liberating.
And don’t forget the power of the “chunking it down” advice. Even superheroes take things one step at a time. Maybe facing one corner or small piece of that pesky project each day is enough, and will integrate over time to a triumph that you could not imagine tackling in totality. Maybe facing little bits of it spaced out is the trick you need, with pieces so small they are no longer so intimidating, but get the monkey of anxiety about it off your back, because you are actually moving forward on it. Just taking the next step is the way to get anywhere.
Contrariwise, however, maybe you need to set everything else aside for a while and go gangbusters on this one thing. Maybe you need to see it catch momentum, and need sustained effort to keep the ball rolling in order for it not to languish again.
Inertia is defined as the tendency to continue in the existing state, either at rest or in motion. So most of the “work” of overcoming avoidance is in switching between doing nothing and doing something. Once you’ve started doing anything about what you were avoiding, keep it going, in order to have inertia switch to being a force in your favor, instead of a drag against you. Remain in progressing mode, regardless of whether that means blitzing it out all at once, or bit by bit in a sustained, regular pattern over time.
Similarly, think about lift off for airplanes. A large preponderance of the power needed for flying is in the lift off. Once in the air, flying does not take much energy at all. Shifting from the ground to the air, like from an object at rest to one in motion, is really the hardest part.
So if we can get our project off the ground, likely we can keep it up and steer it to its destination and land it with grace. This is where the superhero gumption comes in. With a little proper self-talk, we can be willing to give it a try–seizing the day!– even if we are not yet confident it will work. Doing so, is the first step in deliverance from your entrenched lack of motivation, as well as your incapacitating uncertainty, doubt, or misgivings.
Let’s face this stuff like superheroes, so we can fly, can help, and can bring our best to bear, both for ourselves and those we love.