Tuesday morning I had the bright idea of sprinkling the word “Delightful” around the house to see if it would improve my attitude during the day. In addition to having a card next to my computer monitor, I cut-out the word and left it on various surfaces around the house, so every time I went somewhere it would catch my eye. The results were surprising.
Tuesday was an extremely distracted day, spent answering questions from all around. I was also feeling sore from the previous day’s workout (my first of the year other than cardio) at the gym, and I am on a low-calorie diet on a cold New England day. I wasn’t exactly cranky, but was beset by a multitude of discomforts and not feeling that great.
I had hoped that “Delightful” would remind me that the world is a wonderful place, and that this reminder would trigger surges of gratitude every time I saw it. That isn’t what happened.
- I would finish up some small piece of work that wasn’t the BIG WORK that I wanted to get to.
- I would start to get up, and catch the “delightful” word out of the corner of my eye.
- I would stare at it, because the word was not part of my reality of the moment.
- I would contemplate how being in a bad mood trumps delight more times than one would hope.
When I had the idea in the morning, it was a fresh day full of possibility, and I was in a good mood. As the day ground on, the opportunity for delight seemed to diminish. I ended the day on a resigned note, hopeful that the next day would see me getting some REAL WORK and REAL SATISFACTION from it.
Tuesday was won by the Resistance. I didn’t do the work I wanted to get done on the 3-4 “major projects” that are on my mind. Another day of non-progress weighs heavily on me, and I have to remind myself not to feel bad. Instead, I can use this evening to reflect on what I could do better tomorrow.
Some observations first:
- My goal for the day was to clear out that work so I could focus fully on the tough work. I had hoped I’d be able to get it out of the way earlier, but that didn’t come to pass.
- That said, there were 3 hours over the course of the day that I could have spent productively pursuing projects instead of surfing the Internet researching tools, shopping for microphones, or zoning out. I was very aware that I was not taking advantage of the time productively, but the thoughts remained in my head.
- I’d decided to stay at home all day to work, figuring that if I went out to work at a coffee shop it would just be an excuse to (1) blow my diet and (2) just be away for the sheer fun of it instead of LOCKING DOWN and working.
The pattern I see here is that I was building up to a massive effort, like I was about to embark on a two-week hiking trip, and I saw the need for sacrifice. Is this really the right attitude to have? These are big projects, yes, but they are not climbing Mount Everest. They are completely doable with a few hours spent every day over a few weeks.
There appears to be a disparity between the actual difficulty of a task with my mental image of it. I am expecting difficulty and pain, and am putting myself through more drama than necessary. I am making the challenge bigger than it really is. Let me drop the assumption that it’s all going to be hard, and go into a measurement mode. Let me see just how “hard” it is.
Unpacking this further, why do I think these are going to be epic feats It’s not so much that it’s technically difficult stuff…it’s not rocket science. It’s actually that I think the tasks will be boring, and in that light my procrastination for the day reveals another pattern: I was looking for optimal experiences in lieu of pursuing sub-optimal ones. That is what I appear to be drawn to, optimal experiences and the situations/gear that give rise to them. In my mind, everything can and should be better. That’s why I have personal projects to begin, to create my own optimal experiences. It’s the point of creative independence.
I think I can introduce another directive in the Dave Seah action evaluation machinery. While I desire to have optimal experience, I know that it’s ANY experience that is what makes it possible. Rather than let the desire for optimal experience poison my attitude against initiating uncertain actions yielding unknown rewards, I should instead seek all experience. Quantity over quality as part of the grind toward gaining the keys to optimal experience, another way of framing that “10,000 hours to mastery” meme that’s been going around.
So here’s the two new takeaways, both related to “taking first steps”:
- The projects aren’t so big I need to mount an expedition. It’s not like I’m going to the South Pole. Drop the self-sacrificing attitude.
- Value any experience gained instead of letting the desire for optimal experience demotivate me.
There will still be the challenge of staying focused. It is up to me to enforce that zone of solitude, I reckon, once I decide to get in it.