365 Days of Courage #17: Stop Living in a State of Perpetual Preparation

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It's hard to believe that we 17 days into January. How are you feeling at this point? Have you taken any action towards the dreams, goals and visions you have for this year? Or are you still in planning mode? Still stuck in a state of analysis-paralysis. I know from hard-won personal experience that that paralysis can last for months, years, decades even.

How can we get unstuck? The answer is simple and yet profound.

STOP LIVING IN A STATE OF PERPETUAL PREPARATION.

Stop waiting until

  • you've lost the last 10lbs or whatever amount of weight it is that you believe is stopping you from doing the things you want to do;

  • you get the job of your dreams or launch the business you've always talked about;

  • your child starts high school or goes to college;

  • you've figured out what you want to do with your life (quick spoiler alert: however long you wait, James Earl Jones isn't going to appear and proclaim your life's purpose);

  • you've taken more writing or photography or cooking classes so that you finally feel "qualified" to write your book or start a photography business or launch a food blog;

  • the time is "right" - the time will never be right. The only time that we know we have is right now so now is perfect.

I have always been prone to procrastination and believed it to be an integral part of my personality - something that I just needed to learn to live with. As I approached my 40th birthday a decade ago, I felt a surge of possibility and excitement at embarking upon a brand new decade. Then I read quite a few articles about "50 being the new 40" and thought "f..k it. Take the pressure off yourself, Sal." So I carried on living the same year over and over again and kept all of the possibility and excitement contained in my head.

That was the behavior I practiced and I became a master of procrastination.

What I've realized is that calling yourself a procrastinator essentially gives you permission to not do shit. For want of an eloquent and lovely way of putting it. In my experience, it's the not doing of the good shit that would transform your life if you actually did it instead of consuming vast quantities of precious energy stressing about the fact that you're not doing it.

One startling fact hit me recently. I have NEVER procrastinated about doing laundry Ever. In fact, I do laundry daily. I don't sit around bemoaning the fact that I have laundry-doer's block and that, much as I crave clean clothes, I just cannot bring myself to do the laundry.

And yet, I can go for weeks, months and years without writing on a regular basis. Even though there are so many things I yearn to say and explore through writing.

If I had written for just five minutes a day for the past nineteen years (the years that I have been a mother and doing laundry daily!), that would be a mother-load of writing. Almost as much of a mother-load of writing as the mother-load of laundry that I have done during those same years.

I absolutely LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on creative genius and her take on "writer's block" and the fear of being a writer.

Writer's block is simply a choice you are making to NOT write. Let me prove that to you. Find a pen and a piece of paper and start writing. Your hand moves from side to side and the words are appearing, right? I recently read about a writer with cerebral palsy who types with one thumb. Are all 8 of your fingers and both of your thumbs fully-functioning? Good, then get writing or painting or playing the piano or whatever thing you claim to want to do and yet keep choosing to NOT do.

Every time you catch yourself saying "I'm a procrastinator" instead say to yourself, "I'm a person who chooses NOT to do things that are truly meaningful to me and that would make my life so much richer than it is at present." Own the fact that NOT doing things is just a much of a choice as DOING things.

So today and in the days ahead as you go about your daily life, please take a moment to reflect on the things you are putting on hold or planning to do at some point in the future. As you catch yourself procrastinating on something that you truly want to do, take a small step toward that thing. If it's writing, sit down and write for five minutes a day. If it's starting a business, commit to researching and planning how to launch your business for 15 minutes a day and do it.

I would love to hear where in your life you find yourself procrastinating the most and tell me what you plan to DO about it.

Here's to actually doing the things we yearn to do!


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