As soon as I hit publish on yesterday’s post, I felt lighter.
So what if it wasn’t particularly insightful, helpful, or even moderately good? I stepped up to a huge mental block and knocked it the hell down!
It got me thinking about all the people searching for productivity secrets while they’re stuck at home, wanting desperately to emerge from this pandemic as perfect adonises who cook like Julia Childs.
First, to these people, I would say: calm the hell down!
This is not #newglobalcrisisnewme.
Please forgive yourself if you don’t have immaculate attention while people are dying and economies are crumbling. If there are days when you just watch Netflix until your eyes bleed, you’re probably better adjusted than you think you are.
But, if like me, you want to use this downtime to pivot careers or find something you can be passionate about, well boy howdy, do I have some ideas for you!
Think back to all of the times you thought about doing that thing you want to do, but just didn’t. “Things at rest tend to stay at rest” isn’t just physics mumbo jumbo.
Getting started is by far the hardest part.
So how do you overcome inertia?
As someone who loves to write, there’s nothing scarier than a blank page. So I don’t start there. I go for a walk or have a silent moment and let my mind wander. Eventually, I’ll hit on an idea I’m passionate about and envision myself writing about it.
Typically one full-fledged sentence will form in my brain along with a lot of half-baked ideas. I don’t want to lose any of it, so when I get the chance I rush to my computer and dump it from my brain onto paper.
Seeing just a few words on the page that don’t make me want to vomit at my own incompetence is usually enough to keep me going until it’s good and polished.
But be careful.
This deep thought/visualization trick is a double-edged sword. For me, it only works when I’m doing something I’m decently comfortable with. I mean, I’ve written professionally in some capacity for like 6 years.
I get frustrated by it, but I’m not intimidated by it.
If you’re trying something new and complex, especially if it intimidates you, this technique may not be such a good idea.
Your brain rewards itself for thinking about doing something as much as it does when you actually do the thing. The same goes for the people who plan and plan and never stop planning. *cough* me *cough*
Researchers have found that the rewards people get by thinking can prevent them from acting.
So don’t fall into the trap. When you find an idea you like, do something with it immediately. Even if it’s setting a reminder notification on your phone for a time you know you won’t be busy, detailing the first step in your plan.
Make Something Mediocre
One of the reasons getting started it so hard is that doing new stuff is scary. You know you’re gonna suck!
Motivational speakers will try to convince you to get inspired by babies. Look at them, they fall and get right back up!
Ok, but once I stopped shitting my own pants on a regular basis, people’s expectations of me grew along with my self-awareness and knowledge of what “ostracized means”. So, no thank you.
Starting is still scary, but you can take the pressure off by shifting the goal post. Instead of trying your best and waiting to fall, how much more free would you feel if you intentionally made something subpar?
What if the entire goal was to make something mediocre?
The answer is you’d remove the stress of trying something new, get motivated by taking a small action, and learn from doing.
So go ahead, make doughy baked goods, half-ass a workout, scribble something!
Make it bad, but make it.
Don’t Wait to Feel Motivated
It’s a little known fact that Leonardo Da Vinci was notoriously unmotivated. He spent most of his days lazing about Italy until he saw a woman so beautiful that he just had to paint her. She was his muse and this is all a lie because there is no such thing as a muse and inspiration will not strike you randomly no matter how long you wait.
If this is your approach, good luck.
Motivation comes from action, not the other way around. Think about the tiniest, least significant, stupidly simple thing you can do, and go do it. Gently bully yourself or trick yourself into it if you have to.
Play the Jerry to your own Tom, or the Tom to your own Jerry. Whichever is the mouse, I don’t care to look it up.
For instance, I hate doing the dishes. When I know I have to do them, I’ll trick myself into going to the kitchen with the promise of something I want: snacks. Then I say, while I’m here I might as well fill the sink. Once the sink is full, I might as well wash all the dishes.
And I ride that motivation horse as long as I can.
This morning I baked scones, did the dishes, and now I’m writing this article.
Who knows what I’ll do next?
Keep safe and see you tomorrow!