How much time do you spend doing things or work you don’t want to do? I’m betting quite a bit.
As a child, you race towards adulthood in search of a mythical time when you’ll cast off the powerlessness of childhood and start doing exactly what you want.
And yet, the older you get, the more you realise adulthood is more about what you don’t want.
The shine wears off a job and lifestyle you thought you wanted.
And to maintain them you’re bound to a whole series of actions you’d rather skip.
Maybe, most of us are leading lives of quiet desperation.
From that position, the only act of power left is to say no.
If you can’t get what you want, you can still avoid what you don’t want.
Is it that simple?
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
We all know that communication is the key to good relationships.
Despite that, we carry deep-seated assumptions and prejudices into our closest interactions without thinking to question or even acknowledge them.
The problem is, that commonly held attitude won’t get you ahead in life.
You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.
You want to feel good and you don’t want to feel bad. That’s a basic instinct for every living creature.
But the really good stuff lies on the far side of “bad” stuff. Any success is built on many hours of routine, boring effort.
A great performance is an iceberg; one-tenth visible brilliance and nine-tenths hidden trial, error, and reiteration.
A painter cleans brushes, a gardener picks weeds, and a singer practises scales because these menial jobs build the foundations of their craft.
Without a solid foundation, the most astonishing building will topple and eventually fail.
Without perseverance and the discipline to do what has to be done repeatedly, you’ll never develop the grit you need to succeed.
When you’re stuck with stuff that feels bad at the moment but still needs doing for various reasons, you need ways to take care of the things you really don’t want to do.
Feelings Don’t Work
But I bet there is something that you haven’t done. Something you should do, but you can’t bring yourself to start.
A conversation, a letter, an action. Every time you think of it, your mind makes excuses and shies away.
You know this action will ultimately lead to a real benefit. You still don’t do it.
You’re trapped in an endless loop of feelings. No matter how trivial or important the task appears, it conjures up anxiety and avoidance that are usually symptoms of something deeper; fear of rejection, fear of failure, or shame.
Those unnamed emotions lead to procrastination, which only amplifies them.
There are ways to escape this trap without therapy or suffering.
- Name your feelings and set them aside. This is the “just do it” school of thought. It is what it is. Push through your boredom or fatigue and get it done.
- Put a reward on the other side. Made a difficult phone call? Have a shawarma.
- Focus on the outcome and not the process. You want clean clothes, doing laundry is the way to get them.
Feel the fear. Perhaps there are bad consequences to leaving your task undone. You’ll get fired for coming to work in ripped jeans, or laughed at for wearing a formal gown to your retail job because your work clothes were dirty. Rather than avoiding the task itself, avoid feeling even worse by doing your laundry.
- Review the need for the task. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be done by you. If you can reasonably delegate, do so. Pay for a laundry service. Teach your older children to do their own laundry, which is a basic life skill.
- Drop it. This is only after a careful thought that concludes this task demands much more input than the result deserves. Many “shoulds and oughts” drop into this category. It may be a friend who never listens and constantly demands your time; a relative you see out of duty; or drinks after work you don’t enjoy with people you don’t like. If the mere thought of dropping it fills you with relief, and you’ve been honest in your cost/benefit assessment, you’re on the right track. Go ahead and make a positive decision to decline gracefully.
Research tells us that willpower is a limited resource.
Since procrastination is almost inevitable when it comes to doing the thing you don’t want to do, it follows that willpower needs careful management.
So when you’ve found the right strategy to do the thing, do it now.
And if you can’t do it right now, do it as early in the day as possible, before your willpower is depleted by forcing yourself to be civil rather than cursing at your co-worker or relative.
You’re avoiding something. Get it done and off your plate. Get on with the next thing.
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