Have you ever been unable to get something done? Do you procrastinate? Maybe you start projects and don’t finish them, or buy supplies for a project you can’t seem to get around to doing. Many people struggle to stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan even though they want to lose weight and get fit. Degrees are left unfinished, marathons are un-run and businesses are never started.
Why do we have grand plans for our lives and then find ourselves watching a Project Runway marathon while eating a pint of ice cream? I’m sure that I am not the only one who sits down to work and surfs the web to buy shoes. For all that I have accomplished (that dissertation got finished!) I find myself thinking about the things I want to do that I haven’t quite gotten around to doing. Why is it that the dishes will get done, but we save taking action on our big dreams for “someday” even though we know that someday isn’t coming any time soon?
In his book The War of Art, Author Steven Pressfield says that most of us have two lives, the life we live and the unlived life within us. The life we live includes day to day tasks such as watching television, doing dishes, and shoe shopping. We go about our jobs and earn money to pay the bills. We deal with the pressing matters of the moment.
Our unlived life is where our genius resides. Our unlived life holds our highest calling, our deepest potential and the source of the gift we are meant to bring to the world. It is the voice we hear when we are alone late at night, the voice that tells us we can do more and be more. We see our unlived lives in our dreams, often, the dreams we are afraid to share with the world.
Between our lived and unlived lives stands resistance. Resistance stops us from moving forward. It prevents us from being the best we can be. It argues, fights, and rationalizes. It will tell you anything to stop you from proceeding. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance stops you from moving forward.
What do you do when you are putting off something you want to do?
Consider your why.
Perhaps you really don’t want to do something. After a trip to Ecuador, I came home excited to put my trip memories in a photo album. I printed off a couple hundred of my best photos. I bought a gorgeous, expensive album and all the papers and stickers and labels to make a scrap book. That project sat on my To-Do list for years. Then I realized that my memories are in my head. I don’t need to make an album to remember that trip. Instead, I choose a couple of special photos to frame. As nice as it sounded, that album just wasn’t a priority. I finally realized it was OK to take it off my list.
If you are procrastinating, consider whether it is something you really want or need to do. If not, let it go.
Show up and do the work.
The hardest part of doing something is often just getting started. I don’t love going to the gym. I have made it a habit to force myself to get in the car and drive to the pool. Once I am there, I love swimming. The same is true for me with writing. It isn’t going to happen unless I force my butt in the chair and turn on the computer. If you are procrastinating at something, show up and start. More often than not, you will find yourself working diligently at the task at hand. That is how things get done- step-by-step one day at a time.
Face your fears.
Sometimes, the things we want most and that are most important to us are the ones we can’t do. The biggest form of resistance there is, fear, is likely rearing its ugly head. Sometimes we are right to be afraid. After all, if we run out into the street without looking we might get hit by a truck.
But sometimes are fears are not justified. At the very least, we need to stare them down. Consider these common fears:
What will people think? Is it really important what other people think? Do you really care?
What if my idea/business/painting/novel/project isn’t any good? How will you know if you don’t try?
I’m afraid of throwing away my education and training. Everything you have every learned or experienced becomes a part of you. It is never lost.
What if I go broke? Will you really starve? Be homeless? How can you be sure to have enough to live on? How much risk can you realistically take? What if you make even more money?
What if my relationships change? Changing something significant in your life very well might change your relationships. The bigger the change, the more likely this is true. We outgrow relationships and move on. Those who resent that we are achieving something good in our lives might not be our best allies. Our truest allies will rejoice with us.
What if I succeed? This is a scary thought. What if I am powerful or talented or brilliant? How will the world react? Am I worthy? Will I have the guts and the perseverance to be this new person?
Marianne Williamson addresses this fear:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Our fears aren’t going to go away, but we can address them. I spent a couple of years dealing with my fear about leaving my job as a professor, selling the house we had built and starting over with a new career in a new city. I was fairly sure people would think I was crazy, that I might never work again, that I would lose all of my friends and that I would be so poor that I would not be able to do anything or go anywhere. My inner voice kept telling me to go. Finally, I got brave enough.
I am working on living that “unlived” life, and it is turning out well. I have projects left to do, but I have put my writing out into the universe (and gotten paid for it), made friends from all over the world, and drastically improved my health. Going after my dreams has given me the courage to keep going after even bigger and bolder dreams.
I feel an energy and excitement for my life that feels good and that makes me want to keep striving to be the best version of myself. I am sad for those who are just existing, just going through the motions. There is something so much better waiting for you if you are willing to go after it. That’s why I started this blog- we can help each other on this journey.
One day a few months ago I was talking about my plans and all the things I was changing in my life with my nutritionist and coach. My enthusiasm was pouring out and I was practically gushing, but added that I was afraid that maybe I had already achieved all I was supposed to achieve. She laughed and said to me, “Michele, you are nowhere near finished yet.” She’s so right.
I’m not finished yet. How about you?