A Storytelling Serial
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FOUR APPROACHES TO DOING THE WORK
I love the “listen-to-your-intuition” and “follow-your-energy” styles of self-motivation. They point to the easiest and most enjoyable path of doing the work, which I call—you guessed it!—fun. And that’s an important way to get things done.
But if I just listened to my intuition, I would spend my days passively absorbing information while looking out the window of a hermitic cabin by the sea; and if I followed my energy alone, it would take me to the movies. All the time, except when I’m chasing shiny objects through email sales funnels (the internet’s version of infomercials).
By themselves, my intuition and energy are neither compatible, pragmatic, nor sustainable. I opt, instead, for many activities from behind door number two: things I don’t feel like doing until I start.
Strangely, after I get going in this group, I want to continue what I’ve begun. Exercising (an object at rest likes staying put). Being a good community member (see “hermitic cabin” above). Even showering (not good with sudden temperature changes). And most definitely writing (hard to dive in, harder to climb out).
The third category consists of tasks I don’t want to start, never enjoy, can hardly wait to finish—but choose to do, anyway, because they’re the best option for reaching a valued goal.
And oddly, I again end up feeling good, although not till I’m finished. Making phone calls (no written words or body language for conversational space). Cleaning house (like yard work, a black hole that forces me to see All the Other Things that require attention and, usually, money). Driving in rush-hour traffic, no matter the reason (even more horrifying in bad weather).
For both the second and third groups of activities, if I were to wait for desire, I would soon descend into antisocial, unhealthy, unprofessional, filthy, and frustrated sloth.
Category four I can only label as blatant avoidance. In truth, I’m rubbish at powering through work that doesn’t make me feel good after I’ve started or finished.
No force on earth can get me past unremitting agony without personal meaning at the end. This is why I’ve given up kale. Experience has taught me the torture never ceases, and I respectfully do not believe the health propaganda of the kale lobby. I eschew (and refuse to chew) anything that provides me zero benefit.
Unless, of course, multiple highly respected medical studies prove that kale, and kale alone, will help me write faster. Ah. Now we’re back to category three: the best option for reaching a valued goal. Somehow, I’ll get it down. Please pass the ketchup.
Out of four approaches, then, only three are ways I can motivate myself to do the work. And none of those include discipline.
Rather, whether fun or hard, the task needs to accomplish a goal that meshes with my core self and values.
And often I must repeat the work enough that it becomes a habit, the wearing-a-seatbelt, placing-a-napkin-on-my-lap kind of habit that allows for no exceptions and gives me that something-isn’t-right feeling if I skip it.
Also incredibly important, I have to be willing to acknowledge my resistance and nevertheless wait before I allow it to decide what I don’t do. Choosing patience provides time for my actions to create the good feelings that eventually come from categories two and three, the work I care about even though feelings never come before actions.
So unless I’m on a deliberate quest for fun or foolishly trying something personally meaningless—see “kale” discussion above—starting the work is how I prime my good feelings to follow. And they do, in their own good time. Without unremitting self-flagellation.
What’s your fun work? What’s your kale? And where do you need to let action lead the way until you connect with the pleasure of getting it done? Please let us know in the “Comments” section.
7/13/2018 10:33:27 am
This post prompted a discussion between my boyfriend and me last night. One of us is stalling on starting a very scary step in our lives, and we were figuring out which category that fit in. I want to say that it might fall into the fourth category, and that it might be best to give up the fight. It was interesting talking about whether this will ever feel good, even when it's accomplished. Personally, I think it's time to find something that brings more joy, even if it's a difficult in the beginning.
7/13/2018 11:24:51 am
Lisa, I'm glad this post sparked thought and conversation! If we're stuck in taking action, it's always good to have something kick start our thinking about why and how to move forward despite all the negative feelings.
7/13/2018 11:36:27 am
Well, the only benefit to this is the money. For me, that's not enough benefit. But it might be for him. WellWsee. :)
7/13/2018 03:41:51 pm
Ah, money can be a value that people disagree on; some put more weight on it than do others, and of course different folks have varying ideas regarding the value of money. Is money important for its own sake? Is it for survival? How much is really necessary for survival? Is it for other valued items the money can buy, so it's just a tool to attain those important things?
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